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Child support calculation and California child support guideline

Parties to a divorce separation, or paternity case often want to know “How much child support will I have to pay?” Or “How much child support can I expect to receive?” A Westlake Village child support attorney can help you answer these questions.

California child support is calculated according to a statewide guideline that is actually a mathematical formula. The court is required to adhere to the statewide uniform guideline and may depart from it only in the special circumstances.

To find out about child support in your particular case, you may want to get help from a Westlake Village child support attorney who is familiar with the formula and how to make the calculation. Although the calculation can be performed with software, the right numbers must be put into the formula to produce a correct result.


The purpose of the guideline is to produce child support orders that ensure that children receive sufficient support reflecting California’s high standard of living and high costs of raising children compared to other states.

The guideline reflects the following principles:

  • 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. (In California, both parents have an obligation to support their unmarried minor children until the age of 18, or until the completion of high school or the age of 19, whichever occurs first.)
  • Both parents are mutually responsible for the support of their children and each parent should pay for the support of the children according to his or her ability.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The financial needs of the children should be met through private financial resources as much as possible.

The guideline seeks to encourage fair and efficient settlements of conflicts between parents and seeks to minimize the need for litigation.


The guideline takes into account each parent’s actual income and level of responsibility for the children. Key components of the formula are the monthly net disposable income of each parent, the number of children of the marriage, and the percentage of time that each parent has primary physical responsibility for the children.

A Westlake Village child support attorney advises that the results of the formula indicate which parent must pay child support to the other. Depending on the parents’ respective incomes and the amount of time the children spend with each, the higher income parent may need to pay support to the lower income parent or vice versa. The amount of time children spend with each parent is important because the guideline presumes that a parent having primary physical responsibility for the children contributes a significant portion of his or her resources for the support of the children. So, in general, the more time the children spend with a parent, the lower his or her child support obligation will be.


A Westlake Village child support attorney can help with the complicated calculation of each parent’s monthly net disposable income. A parent’s monthly net disposable income is 1/12 of the parent’s annual net disposable income, which is equal to the parent’s annual gross income minus numerous adjustments. A parent’s annual gross income is income from all sources including salaries, commissions, bonuses, investments, disability, workers’ compensation, and unemployment benefits. To get to annual net income, annual gross income is reduced by such items as:

  • Federal and state income taxes.
  • FICA taxes.
  • Mandatory union dues and retirement benefits.
  • Health insurance premiums and state disability insurance premiums.
  • Child or spousal support paid from prior marriages or relationships.
  • Necessary job related expenses.


The court may deviate from the guideline when the formula would produce an unjust or inappropriate result because of certain factors. For example, one factor is when a parent has an extraordinarily high income and the amount determined by the formula would exceed the children’s needs. Another possible situation is when children with special needs require more support. And there are others.

Finally, the parties may agree to deviate from the guideline and the court may approve their agreement under certain circumstances.


The parties can agree to a child support amount equal to or greater or lesser than the guideline. However, the court may not approve an agreement for child support below the guideline formula amount unless the parties declare all of the following:
(1) They are fully informed of their rights concerning child support.
(2) The order is being agreed to without coercion or duress.
(3) The agreement is in the best interests of the children involved.
(4) The needs of the children will be adequately met by the stipulated amount.
(5) The right to support has not been assigned to the county because a parent is receiving public assistance and no public assistance application is pending.


When the court enters a child support order, it is not set in stone. The amount can be increased or reduced as circumstances change in the future. For example, a change in the amount of child support may be appropriate if either parent has a significant change income or change in the amount of time the child lives with that parent, or if the child’s needs change significantly.


Contact Gary Mitchell Today

Areas Served: I handle divorce and other family law matters in Ventura and Los Angeles Counties including, but not limited to, these cities: Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Camarillo, Encino, Malibu, Moorpark, Oxnard, Sherman Oaks, Simi Valley, Tarzana, Thousand Oaks, Ventura, Westlake Village, Woodland Hills

Disclaimer: The material on this website is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice. A result described here should not be considered an indication of future results. All cases are different. The only similarity among the case results reported here is that one of the parties was represented by this law firm. The Internet is not an appropriate place for sensitive attorney-client communications. Therefore, if you wish to speak to an attorney, please arrange for an appointment by phone, fax or email. An attorney-client relationship does not exist between you and this law firm until a retainer agreement has been signed. Links from this website to other sites are not intended to be referrals or endorsements of the linked materials.

Gary Mitchell

Family Law

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4195 East Thousand Oaks Blvd Suite 240 Westlake Village, California 91362