When parties with children begin the divorce process, the first question they usually have is, “How much do I have to pay?” or “How much will I get?” in child support. In the state of California, the term “guideline support” is often used when referring to the amount of child support due. This term refers to a mathematical formula that California has devised to determine child support. Not surprisingly, California has one of the most complicated Child Support Guideline calculations in the nation.
All child support cases in California use the same “guideline” calculation, which makes it easier for parties to determine what their child support obligation will likely be. Judges use a computer program to determine child support and these same programs are available on computers in family law courthouses and on several websites over the internet. The increased accessibility of computer programs that calculate child support has helped decrease the litigation associated with child support. In most cases, judges do not deviate from “guideline support”. Therefore, fighting about the amount of child support due is no longer an issue. Rather, the issues are now focused on each parent’s disposable income, how much time each parent spends with the children and the tax filing status and exemptions of each parent. Once this information is determined, judges enter the information into their child support calculator and the guideline formula will provide the amount of child support due. Therefore, disputes arising in child support cases are centered around how much a party makes or how much time they spend with the children, rather than disputing the amount of support itself.
California state law says that each parent has duty to financially support his or her child. Therefore, parents generally cannot avoid paying child support by not working. In calculating child support, courts may consider how much a parent could earn, thereby imputing income onto the parent even if they are not actually earning income at the time.
Determining a parent’s income and time share with a child can be very complicated when calculating child support, therefore an attorney can be of great assistance when reviewing these issues.