California uses a guideline formula for computing child support. The formula is stated algebraically as CS = K[HN – (H%)(TN)]. (Family Code § 4055.) The components of the formula are child support (CS); amount of both parents’ income to be allocated for child support (K); high earner’s net monthly disposable income (HN); approximate percentage of time the high earner has primary physical responsibility for the children (H%); and total net monthly disposable income (TN).
And…that’s why courts use a computer program like DissoMaster or Xspouse to calculate guideline child support. California’s child support guidelines are not based on a computer formula, as is often misunderstood. It is based on the algebraic formula provided in Family Code section 4055. The computer program, officially approved for use by the courts, helps calculate child support using the formula.
If you want to get an accurate calculation of child support, you can hire an experienced Orange County child support attorney to do a calculation for you. You can also take a look at the state’s free child support calculator. I suggest you avoid other calculators, because of accuracy issues.
Here’s the bottom line, as you can tell from the formula the most important components that go into the child support calculation is income and custodial time.
If you think something is missing from the formula, you are right. Number of children is addressed in another part of the statute (Family Code § 4055(b)(4)). For more than one child, you would multiply child support using the table in the statutes.
The computer program thankfully does the calculation for you. But, in a very general way, you can see that the more income you make and less custodial time you have, the more child support you will pay.
Guiding Principles for Child Support in California
Underpinning the guideline formula are public policy principles that may help you understand why child support is calculated the way it is. Here are the guideline principles:
(a) A parent’s first and principal obligation is to support his or her minor children according to the parent’s circumstances and station in life.
(b) Both parents are mutually responsible for the support of their children.
(c) The guideline takes into account each parent’s actual income and level of responsibility for the children.
(d) Each parent should pay for the support of the children according to his or her ability.
(e) The guideline seeks to place the interests of children as the state’s top priority.
(f) Children should share in the standard of living of both parents. Child support may therefore appropriately improve the standard of living of the custodial household to improve the lives of the children.
(g) Child support orders in cases in which both parents have high levels of responsibility for the children should reflect the increased costs of raising the children in two homes and should minimize significant disparities in the children’s living standards in the two homes.
(h) The financial needs of the children should be met through private financial resources as much as possible.
(i) It is presumed that a parent having primary physical responsibility for the children contributes a significant portion of available resources for the support of the children.
(j) The guideline seeks to encourage fair and efficient settlements of conflicts between parents and seeks to minimize the need for litigation.
(k) The guideline is intended to be presumptively correct in all cases, and only under special circumstances should child support orders fall below the child support mandated by the guideline formula.
(l) Child support orders must ensure that children actually receive fair, timely, and sufficient support reflecting the state’s high standard of living and high costs of raising children compared to other states.