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California Child Support: FAQs

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Child Support can be complicated and often leaves clients going through a divorce with more questions than answers.

The following are some of the most frequently asked questions and answers regarding child support:

1. How is Child Support in California calculated?
Child Support in California is based on statewide uniform guideline calculations. The formula is very complex and in the old days, attorneys would have to do the calculations by hand, which was time consuming and prone to error. Because of this, we now calculate Child Support using computer programs that generate the calculations based on our inputs, including such things as timeshare percentage, income, health insurance payments, tax filing status, etc.

2. Is there a limit on the dollar amount of support that one party can be ordered to pay?
California actually does not provide a cap for the amount of support that one party can potentially be ordered to pay, unlike many other states. The guideline amount is typically the amount ordered however there are circumstances in which the court can and does deviate from the guideline support amount.

3. Is there any remedy if the guideline amount is far greater than what is reasonable necessary to raise a child?
It is possible for the guideline calculation to generate an amount that seems much greater than what most people would think is reasonably necessary to raise a child. What is necessary to raise a child varies from case to case and is dependent on the lifestyle the child enjoyed while the marriage endured. The law provides that a child is entitled to have a lifestyle commensurate with that of his parents. Therefore, in instances when the guideline child support calculated is so excessive that it bears no reasonable relation to either the lifestyle of the parents or the amount of support required to raise a child commensurate with that lifestyle, the court can and may deviate from guideline.

4. What income is included in the calculation?
Earned income from employment, any and all cash flow from businesses and recurring interest and investment income can all be included. California law requires that income from all sources be considered. Many people think that the calculation is based on the income reported in a tax return only. However, this is not the case. Often people use personal expenses as business expenses for tax purposes and when this occurs any expense that is solely for the benefit of a business owner and is not a true expense will be added back to income for the purposes of calculating child support.

5. What happens when the parent receiving support does not use it for the child but instead uses it for personal or other purposes?
Unfortunately this does happen quite often and there is really nothing that can be done about this issue, despite best efforts. Guideline support is for provided for basic living expenses. It does not include such things as private school tuition, swim lessons, music lessons, summer camp, etc. These costs are usually divided between the parents equally in addition to guideline child support that is paid.

6. Does the parent receiving child support have to pay for all of the child’s expenses?
No. As outlined above, child support is for basic living expenses only. Any expenses over and above the basics are usually equally divided between the parents, unless they have an agreement otherwise.

7. Is the amount of support the same for each child when there are multiple children?
No, the calculations provide different amounts of support for each child. The youngest child is typically apportioned the most support. The law believes that the younger the child the higher support needed, which generally doesn’t really makes sense but the way the legislature sees fit to apportion support.

8. Does child support continue through college graduation?
No. Child Support is terminated when the child reaches the age of 18 and has graduated from high school. If the child reaches 18 and is still a full-time high school student, then child support will continue until the child reaches 19 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs first.

9. What if either parent’s financial circumstances change after the court has ordered child support?
Child support is always modifiable if there is a change in one or both parent’s financial circumstances. It can also be subject to modification if there is a change in one parent’s timeshare with the child.

There are many other questions regarding child support that the attorneys at Argyris Mah, LLP can answer based on the circumstances of your case. Contact us at 408-214-6366 or email us at for a free consultation.

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