Child Support

Child support is set according to a formula described in California Family Code § 4055. The amount of support ordered is dependent on the following factors: Each of the parties net disposable income, approximate time the high earner has physical responsibility for the children compared to the other parent, number of other children supported, costs of child care which enable a person to work or go to school, health care expenses and whether there are extraordinary expenses associated with the children. Travel expenses and costs relating to education and other special needs may be considered by a court. There are exceptions to the formula for low-income parents. You will find the actual formula in the Family Code. Lawyers and practitioners use computer software to determine the actual support levels.

New Spouse Income

In most cases, the income of a parent’s subsequent spouse or nonmarital partner is not considered in setting support.

What is Income?

Generally any income, regardless of its source, is considered by the court as being subject to support determinations. Income includes commissions, salaries, royalties, wages, bonuses, rents, dividends, pensions, interest, trust income, annuities, workers’ compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, disability insurance benefits, social security benefits, and spousal support actually received from a person not a party to the proceeding to establish a child support order. The court can also consider employee benefits or self-employment benefits, weighing the benefit to the employee, any corresponding reduction in living expenses and other relevant facts. Exceptions include income from child support or public assistance which is based on “need.”

Earning Capacity

The court may consider the earning capacity of the parent in lieu of their actual earnings.


The following deductions are permitted for calculating net income: Actual state and federal tax liability, FICA, mandatory union dues, deductions for health insurance or health plan premiums, child and spousal support to persons outside this relationship, necessary job expenses, and hardship deductions allowed by the code or by prior court decisions.


There are special considerations when AFDC payments are being made. See Family Code § 4071.5 & 4200 et seq. There are limitations on the applicability of time share factors, deductions from income and hardships when computing the minimum level to be paid. Payments are made as a reimbursement to the county and not the other parent.

The vast majority of child support is paid under the Child Support Guideline. The guideline is based on a complicated mathematical formula. In fact, computer programs must be used to calculate child support under the guideline.

Duration of child support

Child support must be paid until the child becomes 18, unless the child has not graduated from high school, in which case the child support continues until the child has graduated high school or becomes 19, which ever occurs first. Presently, the law doe s not give judges the power to make a parent support a child beyond the age of 19, unless the child is physically or mentally disabled. However, the parents can agree that child support is to continue into the college years, and such an agreement will be enforced by the Family Law Court.

Wage assignment

Unless the custodial parent agrees otherwise, all child support is to be paid by a wage assignment. This means that the child support payments are to be deducted from the wages of the parent who is obligated to pay child support.

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