California Child Support Options – State Guideline or Something Better?

For those who go to court to determine how much child support should be paid by whom in a typical California divorce, there is a formula used to calculate the amount according to the state guidelines for child support.

The formula for the calculation of guideline child support is contained in California Family Code section 4055. That formula is expressed as follows: CS = K [HN – (H%)(TN)]. In this formula, the symbols set forth below (and used in the formula) make reference to the following definitions: CS = child support amount K = amount of both parents’ income to be allocated for child support HN = high earner’s net monthly disposable income H% = higher earner’s approximate time of physical responsibility for the children TN = the parties’ total monthly net income This formula will produce an amount of support per minor child. When more than one child is involved, the end result (CS) is then multiplied by a specific factor depending upon the number of children. For example, for two children the multiplier is 1.6; for three children, the multiplier is 2; for four children the multiplier is 2.3; for five children the multiplier is 2.5; for six children the multiplier is 2.625, and so on.

Roughly speaking, if the parents share relatively equal time and make roughly equal amounts of money, it is likely that neither will pay child support and that both will share costs such as unreimbursed medical and daycare. However, if either time or income vary, the formula will generate the guideline amount to be paid.

Sometimes, the guideline amount makes sense but often it does not. And more often than not, the grief, anxiety and conflict created by using the guideline is not worth it, especially when there are better ways. Far too often, parents will fight for more time with their children than makes sense for them, the kids, or their family situation simply to avoid paying or to get paid more child support. That results in custody battles that serve no one, and least of all the kids.

Working together, parents can separate time from support, and determine how best to allocate each of their resources to support their children. This process enables parents to examine and understand the income available and the costs that each parent incurs in their separate households and how best to spend each of their resources to support their children and each other. Sometimes, this approach results in more than guideline support and sometimes it is less. The amount is less important. What matters is that the amount agreed to has been reached by people who understand and agree with what is being paid because it makes sense for their family and their circumstances. The harmony that results from this process? Priceless.