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Child Support Guidelines
Child Support Guidelines
In any family law case involving minor children, the issue of child support is likely to be the subject of significant focus. Child support is based on the policy that both parents have an obligation, both legal and moral, to financially support their children regardless of the parents custodial rights. As a legal matter child support includes the financial support of children and not other forms of support, such as emotional support, physical care, or spiritual support.
How is Child Support Calculated in California?
The amount of child support to be paid by parents is based on the amount of time each parent spends with the child and their net disposable incomes. CalWORKS grants, a welfare program that gives cash aid and services to eligible needy families, is not considered income for purposes of calculating child support. Income is money from sources including: self-employment, job wages, savings accounts, unemployment money, disability and workers’ compensation, interest, dividends, rents, Social Security and any other payments or credits due or becoming due regardless of source. The court may consider a parent’s earning capacity, or the amount of money the judge thinks the parent could be making, instead of the parent’s actual income.
According to Family Section Code 4055, the statewide uniform guideline for determining child support orders is as follows: CS = K UHN – [(H%)(TN)]. The components of the formula are as follows:
CS = child support amount.
K = amount of both parents' income to be allocated for child support.
HN = high earner's net monthly disposable income.
H% = approximate percentage of time that the high earner has or will have primary physical responsibility for the children compared to the other parent. In cases in which parents have different time-sharing arrangements for different children, H% equals the average of the approximate percentages of time the high earner parent spends with each child.
TN = total net monthly disposable income of both parties.
For more than one child, multiply CS by:
2 children 1.6
3 children 2
4 children 2.3
5 children 2.5
6 children 2.625
7 children 2.75
8 children 2.813
9 children 2.844
10 children 2.86
Net disposable income is calculated by taking a person’s total income and subtracting certain expenses, such as federal and state income taxes, health insurance premiums, state disability insurance, and Social Security taxes. The judge/commissioner may also consider other expenses, including the cost of raising a child from another relationship, exceptional health care expenses, uninsured catastrophic losses, mandatory union dues, or retirement contributions.
Child support covers only ordinary living expenses for a child. It does not include things like childcare, medical bills not paid by insurance, travel expenses for visitation with the other parent, or a child’s special education needs. Parents must specifically ask the judge to include these additional expenses in the child support order. Generally, these expenses are divided equally although they may also be divided proportionately to the parents’ after support net-spendable income.
Once each parent’s net disposable income is calculated, the child support guideline is used to determine the percentage of net disposable income to be paid as child support.
The law requires the court to order one or both parents to provide health insurance coverage for their child(ren), including vision and dental care coverage, if it is available through a job or group insurance plan at no or reasonable cost to the parent. The Family Code was recently amended to define no or reasonable cost to be 5% of a parent’s gross salary or less.
When Must Child Support Be Paid in California?
In California, child support must be paid regardless of whether the parents were married until the child does any of the following: reaches the age of 18 and graduates from high school, reaches the age of 19, joins the military, gets married or is otherwise emancipated, or dies.
Dissomaster Child Support Calculations in California
Almost all California family law attorneys and family judges are trained to use a computer program called Dissomaster (other versions of the software include SupporTax and XSpouse) which takes each parent’s individual factors into account and calculates the proper amount of child support. The factors include each parent’s income, time spent with the child, property taxes, union dues, as well as numerous other factors.
Once the initial child support orders are established they can be modified based on a material change of circumstances. Some reasons for a modification in child support payments are a spouse losing their job, suffering an illness, the child reaching the age of majority, or one of the spouses obtaining a significant income increase or decrease. If there is any type of significant financial or lifestyle change a new Dissomaster calculation can be run to establish a new support order.
Should I Consult a California Family Attorney About Using Dissomaster?
The Dissomaster program is available to the public for purchase and costs approximately $500, but learning how to use the program is difficult and something lawyers are specifically trained to use. If the calculations are not done properly you may receive less than you are entitled to or pay more than you are required to.
If you are seeking to establish or modify child support, working with an experienced family lawyer will help you understand your rights and help protect your interests. To request a free 1 hour consultation, please contact us at The Law Office of Matthew J. Rudy.