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How is child support calculated in California?

Updated: Apr 9, 2019

Most single, separated, or divorcing parents have questions about child support. How is child support calculated? Will a court decide the amount of child support, or can my ex and I come to an agreement? Read on to find out.



How is child support calculated in California?

Pursuant to California law, both parents' first and most important obligation is to support their children. This obligation is mutual, taking into account each parent’s income and level of responsibility for the children.


California uses a standardized algebraic formula to calculate the dollar amount of child support. This formula, called the "statewide uniform guideline" ("guideline") is technical and complex. It weighs key factors to determine the financial needs of the children and the parents’ respective abilities to pay.


The most important factors in the guideline calculation are the number of children, the respective income of each parent, and the percentage of time the children spend with each parent.


Other factors that impact the guideline calculation are tax filing status, health insurance premiums and costs, mandatory minimum retirement contributions, mortgage and property tax payments, among other factors.


TIP: In a child support dispute, each party is entitled to the other party's financial information, including but not limited to pay stubs and tax returns.


Can my ex and I come to an agreement about child support or will a judge decide?

Parents can come to an agreement about child support. In fact, when the percentage of time with each parent is easily determinable and the parents' incomes are not in dispute, parents often come to an agreement. Under those circumstances, it is still advisable to hire counsel to ensure the process and documents are done correctly.


Sometimes, a parent's income is not easily determinable, for example if one parent is self-employed -- but that's a subject for a different blog post. That said, under those circumstances, parents can and do come to an agreement, often with the assistance of a family law attorney.


When parents cannot agree on the proper amount of child support, whether due to a dispute about income or the timeshare percentage, either parent can file a Request for Order with the court asking that a judge determine the amount of child support.


If you are involved in a child support dispute and are seeking legal assistance, call the Law Office of Emily E. Rubenstein at (310) 750-0827. We proudly serve Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Culver City, the South Bay, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Encino and all of Los Angeles County.