How is Child Support Calculated?
In California, there is a mandatory statutory guideline formula for calculating support. (Family Code section 4050 et seq.) The following is a list of the primary factors that the court will use in determining child support. Other factors can influence child support and it is best to consult with an attorney regarding the specific circumstances of your case to get accurate information about what child support would be in your case.
Timeshare with the Children
The guideline formula takes into consideration the amount of time each parent spends with the child(ren). The time-share component represents the approximate percentage of time that the high earner has or will have primary physical responsibility for the child compared to the other parent. (Family Code section 4055(b)(1)(D).) The difference between physical responsibility and physical custody is an important statutory distinction. The court will base timeshare on the amount of time that you are responsible for your child(ren) regardless of whether the child is actually with you. For instance, if the child(ren) is in school, but it is your responsibility to pick-up the child in the event of an emergency, the child is your responsibility and the school hours will be included in your timeshare.
The Income of Each Party
Family Code section 4058 defines the income available for support. Mandatory income that the court must consider in issuing an order for child support includes income from whatever source it is derived, including, but not limited to the following:
- Salaries and wages
- Bonuses and commissions
- Business and Self Employment income
- Dividends and interest.
- Pensions and annuities.
- Workers compensation benefits.
- Unemployment insurance benefits
- Disability insurance benefits
- Social security benefits
- Military allowances, including housing and food allowances
- Spousal support received from a person who is not a party to the child support proceeding
- Trust income
What if One Parent Doesn’t Have Income?
If one of the parents is unemployed or underemployed (i.e. not earning commensurate with his or her earning capacity), the court may impute income to that parent for purposes of calculating child support. (Family Code section 4058(b).) In order to impute income to a parent, the court must find that the parent has both the ability and opportunity to earn income.
Exceptions to the Application of the Guideline Formula
Courts are required to adhere to the guideline formula and may depart from it only in the special circumstances specified in the guideline. (Family Code § 4052) The presumption that the guideline formula amount, is the correct amount of child support may only be rebutted by admissible evidence showing that the application of the formula would be unjust or inappropriate in the particular case, consistent with the principles set forth in Family Code section 4053 based on one of the factors set forth in Family Code section 4057.
- The parties stipulate to a different amount of support
- The sale of the family home has been deferred
- The payor of child support has extraordinarily high income such that an order under the formula would exceed the child’s reasonable needs
- A parent is not contributing to the child’s needs commensurate with that parent’s timeshare
- Application of the formula would be unjust because of special circumstances in the case such as
- When the parents have different timesharing arrangements for different children
- The parents have substantially equal timeshare of the children and one parent has a much higher or lower percentage of income used for housing than the other parent
- The children have special medical or other needs that would require greater support than the formula amount