Child support is the amount of money that a court may order a parent, or both parents, to pay every month to help support their children. Each parent is equally responsible for providing for the financial needs of his or her children. The court cannot enforce this obligation until it makes an order for support. When parents separate, a parent must ask the court to make an order for child support.
Child support payments are usually made until each child turns 18 (or 19 if they are still in high school full time, living at home, and cannot support themselves). California has a statewide formula (called a “guideline”) for determining how much child support should be paid. If parents cannot agree on child support, the judge will decide how much child support will be paid using a guideline calculation. There are only two factors utilized for determining child support, i.e., each party’s net income and the amount of time they each see the children.
The guideline calculation is based upon two factors:
- Each parent’s “net disposable income.” This means the parent’s income after state and federal taxes and other required deductions. The court may order support based in part on bonuses, commissions, overtime, and other supplemental or non‑wage income if the court determines that this income occurs regularly. Certain income is NOT counted when determining a child support obligation. For example, the court cannot consider income received from the government based upon need.
- Each parents time-share with the children. The court will calculate “time‑share” (how much time each parent spends with the children) by comparing the amount of time that each parent has primary physical responsibility for the children. In general, this means that the court will count the numbers of hours or other portions of the day a parent spends with his or her children. Usually, child support payments will decrease as time‑share increases.