Child Support Basics: How Child Support is Calculated

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Every child is entitled to financial support from both of his or her parents. As such, if two parents are not raising a child together, child support is generally required. Child support is mandated by law and if there is a support order in place, the support must be paid or there are consequences including the potential for jail time.  Child support may also be required even in cases where the paying parent does not have visitation rights with the child.

To ensure that every child gets the support he or she needs, California has established a standard formula that is used to calculate a parent’s support obligation. This formula generally must be used to determine the amount of support that is to be paid, and the parents typically cannot negotiate a lower support amount amongst themselves when creating a divorce settlement. Further, child support cannot be waived in a premarital or postmarital agreement. This means that while a parent could pay more support than the standard formula would normally require, he or she generally cannot pay less.

Calculating Child Support

The standard formula that is used to calculate a parent’s child support obligation is a complex formula. To make it easier for the amount of support to be determined, a calculator has been provided by the State of California (view it here).   You can simply enter your relevant information into the DissoMaster and the calculator will determine how much support must be paid.

Some of the factors that the DissoMaster incorporates to determine a parent’s support obligation include:

  • The amount of income earned by each of the child’s parents including income from all sources including wages and self-employment income
  • A mortgage obligation, property tax obligation and other required expenses
  • The number of children that the parents have together
  • Any children from a prior marriage or any other outstanding court-ordered support obligations
  • The amount of time that the child spends in each parent’s physical custody
  • Required union dues
  • Health insurance costs
  • Mandatory retirement contributions
  • The income of a new spouse if either of the parents have remarried

These are just a few of the many different items that are used to assess what is an appropriate amount of support. If a child has special needs that necessitate extra expense, such as a child who is disabled and who requires costly care or medical treatment, then the child’s individual situation can also be factored in to assess a support obligation.

Once the appropriate amount of child support is determined, a child support order will go into effect and the paying parent must comply with the support order.  The order cannot be changed except in situations where there is a material change in circumstances and the court agrees to alter the support order.  The money is typically deducted automatically from the paying parent’s income and paid to the recipient parent in order to ensure that the child receives the necessary support.

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