CaliforniaChild Support Laws
California Child Support Guide :: Table of Contents
Child support is an ongoing payment by a non-custodial parent to assist with the financial support of their children. Child support payments are often determined during the process of dissolution of a marriage through divorce, though the only requirements for requesting child support payments are establishment of paternity and maternity.
Child support is handled on a state level, and California has a set of specific child support guidelines. On this page you can learn about how child support is calculated in California, how custody split and extraordinary costs affect child support payments, and more.
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California uses the "income share" method for calculating child support payments, which is designed to ensure that both the custodial and non-custodial parents contribute to their child's upkeep.
California's child support formula directly accounts for parents who share custody of a child, and support payment amounts are connected to the custody split. Other special situations accounted for under California's child support law include childcare costs and extraordinary medical costs. These costs may be additions to the basic California child support order.
If the court orders a phasein of child support payments, and the court finds evidence that the obligor violated the phasein payment schedule or intentionally lowered their income for paying child support, the court can order the immediate payment of the full formula amount of child support and the difference in the amount of support that would have been due without the phasein schedule and the amount of support due with the phasein, in addition to any other penalties provided for by law.
Whenever the court grants a request for a phasein payment schedule, they will declare the following in writing:
- The specific reasons why
- how the immediate imposition of the full monthly amount would create hardship for the obligor
- how this extraordinary hardship on the obligor would outweigh the hardship caused to the supported children through the temporary phasein of the full amount of support
In any proceeding where there is an issue for the support of a child or a child for whom support is authorized, the court can order either or both parents to pay an amount that is necessary for the support of the child.
Child support can be arranged out of court by a mutual support agreement between the parents, or can be decided in California family court through a child support order. In California, a number of factors are taken into account when determining the amount of child support to be paid in court. Here is an explanation of the two most common methods used to calculate basic child support amounts.
Income Share Method
Under the income share model, the court uses economic tables to estimate the total monthly cost of raising the children. The non-custodial parent pays a percentage of the calculated cost that is based on their proportional share of both parents' combined income.
Example: The non-custodial parent of one child has an income of $2,000 per month, and the custodial parent has an income of $1,000 per month. The court estimates that the cost of raising one child is $1,000 a month. The non-custodial parent's income is 66.6% of the parent's total combined income. Therefore, the non-custodial parent pays $666 per month in child support, or 66.6% of the total child support obligation.
Percentage Of Income Method
This method of calculating child support is simple - a set percentage of the non-custodial parent's income is paid monthly to the custodial parent to cover basic child support expenses. The percentage paid may stay the same, or vary if the non-custodial parent's income changes.
Example: The non-custodial parent of one child has an income of $2,000 per month. The court orders a flat percentage of 25% of the non-custodial parent's income to be paid in child support to the custodial parent. Therefore, the non-custodial parent pays $500 per month in child support. If the non-custodial parent's monthly income changes, the dollar amount they pay in child support will change as well.
California Child Support FAQ
- How does having shared custody of the child affect child support in California?
- How are extraordinary medical costs treated by child support in California?
- How are child care costs treated by child support in California?
- Does child support cover college education expenses in California?
- How is child support enforced in California?
- What are child support arrears?
- How are child support payments taxed in California?
How does having shared custody of the child affect child support in California?
All states have a method of modifying the amount of child support owed in cases where the custody agreement provides for joint or shared custody of a child between both parents.
California law accounts for shared custody of a child directly in the child support formula used to calculate payment amounts. This means that, in cases where custody is shared, the amount of child support paid by the paying parent will be reduced according to the amount of time they have custody of the child.
How are extraordinary medical costs treated by child support in California?
California has specialized guidelines for the sharing of a child's extraordinary medical care costs that are separate from, and in addition to, basic child support payments. Extraordinary medical costs are generally costs generated by things such as illness, hospital visits, or costly procedures such as getting braces.
California treats extraordinary medical care costs as a "mandatory deduction" for basic child support. This means that if the non-custodial parent pays child care costs, the portion of the total monthly child care costs attributed to the custodial partner are deducted from the noncustodial partner's monthly child support payment. If the custodial parent pays for child care, the non-custodial parent must pay their share in addition to basic child support.
How are child care costs treated by child support in California?
Due to the high costs of child care for a single payment, California has specialized guidelines that consider child care costs separately from the general costs of raising a child for the purposes of calculating child support payments.
California treats child care costs as a "mandatory deduction" for basic child support. This means that if the non-custodial parent pays child care costs, the portion of the total monthly child care costs attributed to the custodial partner are deducted from the noncustodial partner's monthly child support payment. If the custodial parent pays for child care, the non-custodial parent must pay their share in addition to basic child support.
Does child support cover college education expenses in California?
While the state of California has no explicit requirement for college expenses to be covered under child support, support for college expense by the non-custodial parent may be voluntarily agreed to by both parties, after which it is contractually enforceable.
How is child support enforced in California?
In the state of California, child support is enforced by the state child support agency. The state agency handles the location of non-custodial parents, enforcement of support orders, and the handling of unpaid child support arrears.
What are child support arrears?
Child support arrears are the amount of child support that is delinquent, or unpaid, by the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent. Child support arrears may be collected by the state through wage garnishment, bank levy. withholding of California welfare benefits, or other collection methods.
How are child support payments taxed in California?
Under IRS guidelines, the recepient of child support does not need to pay federal tax on child support payments, and the payer of child support cannot deduct their child support payments. This differs from the federal taxation of alimony payments, which are treated as taxable income by the receiver and are deductible by the payor. California tax law may vary on tax treatment of child support.