While child custody is something that you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse should discuss on your own—and, if possible, reach an agreement on together—child support is another story. You don’t get to choose how much child support will change hands during and after your divorce case, because the state of California has guidelines in place to govern how much a custodial parent will receive for the care and well-being of his or her children.
The state guidelines are a little bit flexible, and it’s possible for one spouse to choose to give the other spouse more child support than the guidelines recommend. However, it’s important to remember that once the judge in your case orders a certain amount in child support, the order is legally binding. You or your spouse (the one who is ordered to pay child support) must pay or face serious legal consequences.
How to Calculate Child Support in California
The guideline the state uses to determine child support uses algebra to figure out how much support a child is entitled to receive. (Sorry!)
The formula is:
CS = K (HN – (H%)(TN))
In that formula:
CS represents child support.
K represents the combined total of both parents’ income.
HN represents high net, which is the net monthly disposable income of the parent earning more money.
H represents the percentage of time that the higher-earning parent will have primary physical responsibility for the kids.
TN represents the combined net monthly disposable income of both parents together.
If the amount of time H is greater than 50%, K will equal 2 – H. If The amount of time H is less than 50%, K will equal 1 + H. The formula varies when more than one child is involved.
We can work through the formula with simple numbers so you can see how it works, but in most cases, it’s easier to use the state of California’s own child support calculator.
Sample Child Support Calculation Under California’s Guidelines
Let’s use this example:
Parent 1 makes $3,000 per month.
Parent 2 makes $1,500 per month.
Parent 1’s disposable income is $500.
Parent 1, who is the higher earner, will have primary physical responsibility for one child 20% of the time.
The combined net monthly disposable income of both parents is $500 (Parent 2 has no disposable income to calculate).
In this case, where the amount of time H is less than 50 percent, 1 + H equals K; the formula will look like this:
CS = K (HN – (H%)(TN))
CS = 1 + 0.20 (500 – (0.20)(500))
CS = 1.2 (500-100)
CS = 1.2 (400)
CS = $480
Even if you calculate your child support using this formula (or the state’s child support calculator), remember that your case may be different for several reasons—most notably that the court will consider childcare costs, healthcare costs, and other special costs when ordering child support.
The more time the non-custodial parent spends with the children, the lower his or her child support is likely to be, too.
About California’s Child Support Guidelines
California’s child support guidelines, as any family court lawyer can tell you, were designed to provide for a minimum level of child support. Deviations are only allowed in very limited situations.
Legal Consequences of Failure to Pay Child Support After a Court Order
If the party ordered to pay child support fails to pay, your attorney can file a motion for contempt. The court will review the facts in your case and determine what’s going on, and the consequences for failure to pay can be very severe—even including jail time.
Do You Need to Talk to a Stockton Divorce Lawyer About Child Support?
If you need to talk to a Stockton divorce attorney about establishing child support, we can help. Call us at 209-910-9865 to tell us about your case. We’ll be able to give you specific advice so you can start moving forward.