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California Child Support
Child Support in California

Child Support is based on Family Code Sections 4050-4076, and is based on the Income Shares model.

Many states use this routine to establish a child support. Income shares tables calculating child support are not based directly on actual spending on children but rather on indirect estimates of child costs. Income shares assumes that child costs reflect the spending necessary to restore a family's standard of living back to what it was prior to the divorce or having a child.

The Judicial Council of California is required to conduct the California Child Support Guideline Review at least every four years.

The Income Shares Model estimates the amount of support that would have been available if the marriage had not failed. This estimated amount is then divided proportionally to the parents according to each parent's income. It is easy to do this using the California child support worksheet. Pay records typically substantiate the estimated incomes.

This routine takes into account both parents' gross income and applies a percentage to it based on the number of minor children they have together. The court takes the combined income of both parents and works out the proportion each contributes. That figure is then divided proportionately based on each parent's ability to pay and which parent has primary custody.

If the noncustodial parent has a higher income than the custodial parent, the noncustodial parent would then be responsible for the greater portion of the child support obligation; conversely, if the noncustodial parent has a lower income than the custodial, the noncustodial parent would then be responsible for the smaller portion of the child support obligation.

Courts in California calculate child support based on the income of both parents. Income includes salaries, commissions, wages, overtime, dividends, unemployment benefits, workers' compensation benefits and spousal support. The courts consider parents' income, parents' level of responsibility for the child, child's interests, standard of living for the child, custodial arrangement, financial need of the child and any other relevant factors.

In addition to income-based child support, a judge may order a parent to include a child on his or her health care coverage and contribute to extraordinary health care expenses. If a noncustodial parent has access to health insurance, a California court may expect that parent to contribute.

California courts award temporary child support during custody and support actions, and either parent may be required to pay support. A mandatory minimum amount of child sport can be calculated from forms available at the office of the County Clerk. These minimum payment amounts apply unless there is a reasonable agreement that states that:

  • the parents are fully informed of their rights regarding child support under California law;
  • that the child support amount is being agreed to without coercion or duress;
  • that they declare that their children's needs will be adequately met; and
  • that the right to child support has not been assigned to the county and that no public assistance is pending.

A parent may be required to provide medical insurance coverage for a child if such coverage is available at a reasonable cost. An applicant for child support must complete and submit to the court:

  • an application for an expedited child support order;
  • an income and expense declaration from both parents;
  • a worksheet setting forth the basis of the amount of child support requested; and
  • a proposed expedited child support order.

The noncustodial parent may be required to provide reasonable security for child support. Payment of support is governed by detailed and extensive statuary provisions.

California child support is typically calculated by using a Child Support Worksheet. The worksheet generates an appropriate California child support obligation according to each spouse's income and other relative numeric factors such as taxes paid and retirement contributions.

After calculating support, it is appropriate to check if there are any California child support deviation factors that may be applicable. Additional information about child support can be found in the California state statutes.

California recognizes an explicit link between custody and child support in a provision that a court may order financial compensation to one parent for those periods of time the other parent fails to assume care-taking responsibility. There may be additional financial compensation awarded to a parent who has been repeatedly thwarted by the other parent in attempts to exercise custody/visitation. Statewide guidelines take into consideration the time each parent has custody of the child.

The Annotated California Code; Sections 3024, 3622, 4001, 4050, Judicial Council Forms, and California Rules of Court describe divorce and child support in California.

Calculate California Child Support

Other Expenses and Deductions

Extraordinary expenses are either add-ons, where the expense is added to the support payment, or deductions, where the amount is deducted, and indicated as either mandatory or permissive.

In fixing child support, California considers other expenses and deductions:

  • Child care costs related to employment or to reasonably necessary education or training for employment skills.
  • The reasonable uninsured health care costs for the children as provided in Section 4063.

The court may also order the following as additional child support:

  • Costs related to the educational or other special needs of the children.
  • Travel expenses for visitation.

The court considers extraordinary medical expenses and childcare as mandatory deductions.

Child Support Enforcement

Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) provides public child support enforcement. There are 64 Local Child Support Agencies. You can visit their website here.


In California, parents are obligated to support a minor child until the child turns age 18, or age 19 if the child is still enrolled in high school. Normally, in California, child support payments continue until the child marries or registers a domestic partnership, dies, is otherwise emancipated, turns 18 and is not a full-time high school student, or turns 19, whichever occurs first.

Under California law, parents may agree to support a child for a longer period of time. If a child is disabled, the court may also order that both parents support that child when he or she becomes an adult.

Deviation Factors

California uses a program called the DissoMaster to calculate child support. Based on the income of the spouses and the time each has the children, Dissomaster can base support on actual current income. Support can be based on imputed income if the court finds that a spouse has voluntarily reduced his or her income.

There are variables in calculating guideline-based child support. Parents can agree on a support amount, but if they cannot, the judge uses the guidelines to do it for them.

The guideline calculation depends on:

  • the monthly earnings of each parent (or earning capability);
  • the amount of other income each parent receives;
  • the number of children the parents have together;
  • the amount of time each parent spends with their children;
  • the filing status of each parent;
  • child support from other relationships;
  • health insurance expenses;
  • mandatory union dues;
  • mandatory retirement contributions;
  • costs of daycare and uninsured healthcare expenses;
  • and other factors.

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