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California courts use a formula to calculate the “Guideline” child support amount.  The guideline amount is based on various factors, the most important of which are the following:

Number of children – The more children, the higher the guideline amount of child support will be.

Percentage of time each given child lives with each parent – the more time the child spends with the paying parent, the lower the guideline child support will be.

Income - Each parent’s income (e.g., employment, self-employment, rent, interest, regular gifts, employment perks, unemployment benefits, disability benefits, retirement benefits, etc.).  It’s easier to demonstrate through examples during our consultation, than it is to explain how the income factor effects the guideline amount.

Tax filing status - The actual tax filing status of each parent (i.e. Single, Head of House, Married Filing Jointly, Married Filing Separately) will effect the guideline amount, because potential tax savings and deductions are factored into these calculations.

Health care premiums – Paying health insurance premiums affects the child support amount.  A parent who must pay child support will pay less child support if he or she also pays health insurance premiums.  A parent who will receive child support will receive more child support if he or she also pays health insurance premiums.

Mandatory union dues and/or mandatory retirement contributions – A payor's mandatory union dues and/or mandatory retirement payments will decrease child support for the payor.  The payments must be required by the employer, such as with fire and rescue, law enforcement, teachers and some government workers.  However, a payor's voluntary retirement payments (e.g., a 401(b), 403(b), 401(k), 457 plan, etc.) for tax saving purposes will provide the opposite effect and increase child support. 

Home loan interest and property taxes – A parent who has less time with the child and also earns more income than the other parent will pay more child support each month if he or she also pays home loan interest and/or property taxes.  A parent who has more time with the child and also earns less income than the other parent will receive less child support each month if he or she also pays home loan interest and/or property taxes.  

Daycare, healthcare, educational expenses – Aside from guideline child support, parties normally also share daycare, out-of-pocket healthcare, and the minor's mutually agreed upon educational expenses.  Shared daycare expenses are usually mandatory expenses to enable either parent to work or obtain job training.  Daycare expenses incurred for other reasons are usually paid by the parent who incurs the expense.

The Court presumes that the guideline child support amount is correct.  The judge can only depart from the guideline amount in very limited situations.



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