How do we calculate the amount of child support?

How do we calculate annual income?

To estimate how much child support the judge may order in your case, go to California Guideline Child Support Calculator. To understand how to fill in the information in the Child Support Calculator, download the User Guide.  

Figuring out "income" to calculate child support
The court bases child support on a 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 from:

  • CalWORKs,
  • General Assistance/General Relief, or
  • SSI (Supplemental Security Income).

Figuring out "time-share" to calculate child support
The court will calculate parenting "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 child. 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 child.  

How do we calculate child support when the children live with one parent most of the time?

The parent who has the children most of the time will usually receive child support. There are some situations where the parent who has the children most of the time will have to pay the other parent support (for example when there is a very large difference in the parents’ income) but this is very unusual. The reason for this is to ensure that the child's needs will be met no matter which parent's home the child is residing. The parent who doesn’t have the children most of the time usually is the paying parent.

Once you know how much the paying parent earns in a year (see How do we calculate annual income?), the easiest way to work out the basic amount of child support is to go to the California Guideline Child Support Calculator.

How do we calculate child support when the children live with each of us about the same amount of time?

A shared parenting arrangement is when the children live about the same amount of time with each of their parents over the course of a year.  Child support is based both upon each parents income and the time that they spend with the child.  Even if each parent has the child about the same amount of time, some support may still be due based upon differences in each parent’s income.

For help with your situation, talk with an attorney or a facilitator or visit your court’s self help center.

How do we calculate child support when the children are split between us?

A split parenting arrangement is when there are two or more children and each parent provides primary care for one or more of the children, which means:

  • one or more children live with one parent most of the time, and
  • one or more children live with the other parent most of the time.

What about medical coverage?

Federal and California laws require that every child support order include an order for "medical support." This means that the court will order either or both parents to provide health insurance for the child as long as it is available at a "reasonable cost."

For more information on medical coverage, including how to determine reasonable cost click here.

If you do not think you can afford to pay your medical support order, you can file 2 forms to ask the court to change or end the order:

  • Request and Notice of Hearing Regarding Health Insurance Assignment (Form FL-478), AND
  • Income and Expense Declaration (Form FL-150).

The family law facilitator can help you fill out and file these forms.

What should we do once we agree on an amount?

If you and the other parent agree on the amount of support, you can enter a written child support agreement and have the court approve that amount as the court order.  For more information on how to write up a child support agreement and submit to the court click here.