In California, three primary factors have the greatest effect on the amount of child support a court orders. These factors are:
1. The gross monthly income of each parent;
2. The number of children; and
3. The amount of time the children spend with each child.
In addition to the three primary factors, there are other factors which have an effect on the amount of child support orders. Some of this other factors are:
- The amount of any mandatory union dues a parent must pay;
- Any free housing or other non-cash benefits a parent receives from working;
- Any cash gifts or distributions regularly received by a parent other than from working;
- The amount of mortgage interest and property taxes a parent pays; and
- Whether a parent is paying court-ordered child support for a child of another relationship.
By law child support must be paid before a parent pays any other debts including rent, car payments, food, or anything else. Therefore, the court does NOT take into consideration a parent’s expenses when making a decision about child support (unless a parent will not have enough money left over after paying child support to afford food and shelter).
The factors discussed above are entered into an equation called the State Guideline Formula to generate “Guideline” Child Support. Unless the parents agree on a different amount the court will order the Guideline Child Support. It is very, very, very rare for a court to deviate from the amount of Guideline child support.
There are also mandatory add-ons to Guideline child support. There are:
- Child care costs necessary for a parent to work or go to school; and
- Healthcare expenses not covered by health insurance.
These add-ons are usually split evenly between the parents unless one parent makes much, much more than the other.
The obligation to support a child continues until the child is 18 and has graduated from high school or turns 19 whichever occurs first. No agreement between the parents can take away the power of the court to order child support.