This article will discuss how child support is calculated. Child support is primarily based on each parent’s income and the amount of time the child spends with each parent. Child support payments are not tax deductible. Read on to learn how child support works.
California Family Code Section 4053 describes the principals behind child support:
In implementing the statewide uniform guideline, the courts shall adhere to the following principles:
(a) A parent’s first and principal obligation is to support his or her minor children according to the parent’s circumstances and station in life.
(b) Both parents are mutually responsible for the support of their children.
(c) The guideline takes into account each parent’s actual income and level of responsibility for the children.
(d) Each parent should pay for the support of the children according to his or her ability.
(e) The guideline seeks to place the interests of children as the state’s top priority.
(f) Children should share in the standard of living of both parents. Child support may therefore appropriately improve the standard of living of the custodial household to improve the lives of the children.
(g) Child support orders in cases in which both parents have high levels of responsibility for the children should reflect the increased costs of raising the children in two homes and should minimize significant disparities in the children’s living standards in the two homes.
(h) The financial needs of the children should be met through private financial resources as much as possible.
(i) It is presumed that a parent having primary physical responsibility for the children contributes a significant portion of available resources for the support of the children.
(j) The guideline seeks to encourage fair and efficient settlements of conflicts between parents and seeks to minimize the need for litigation.
(k) The guideline is intended to be presumptively correct in all cases, and only under special circumstances should child support orders fall below the child support mandated by the guideline formula.
(l) Child support orders must ensure that children actually receive fair, timely, and sufficient support reflecting the state’s high standard of living and high costs of raising children compared to other states.
The guideline formula to calculate child support is described in California Family Code Section 4055. This formula is presumptively correct. The Dissomaster is a program the Court utilizes to calculate guideline child support. This program allows the parties to input various information about each parent to determine the guideline support calculation. We have outlined some of these factors below.
- Timeshare – the time the child spends with each parent;
- Filing Status – the tax filing status of each parent, for instance, if the parent files as Head of Household, Single, Married Filing Jointly, or Married Filing Separately;
- Number of Exemptions – the number of Federal Exemptions each parent claims on the Federal Tax Return;
- Income – the gross monthly income of each parent. This includes income from wages, tips, commissions, bonuses, self-employment, disability income, unemployment income, interest, dividends, rental income, pension and other income, whether taxable or nontaxable received by each parent. For instance, some parents receive nontaxable income from In-Home Support Services on behalf of the child. This income will be included as income to the parent.
- Health Insurance – each parent must disclose the monthly health insurance cost for themselves and the child.
- Itemized Deductions – each parent must disclose the itemized deductions they have claimed on their taxes and insert an average monthly value for the same. This includes deductions for property tax expenses and interest expenses.
- Retirement Deduction – each parent must disclose any required mandatory retirement or union dues that need to be paid per month.
The Court has the discretion to make an order for child support that is higher than or less than the guideline amount in exceptional circumstances if it is in the best interest of the child. The court can also make orders for additional child support pursuant to California Family Code Sections 4061-4063.
These orders for additional child support can either be mandatory or discretionary. The mandatory add-ons include an order that each party pays one-half of daycare expenses incurred in relation to employment or training for employment and one-half of any uncovered health care expenses including co-pays. Discretionary add-ons include an order that the parent pays a portion of expenses that are in the child’s best interest, which include special education expenses and travel expenses.