Written by attorney John Vincent Montero


Many parents have questions about the use of a child support calculator program in determining child support in California Courts.

There are several different brands of child support calculators used by attorneys. All of these are required to be certified by the California Judicial Counsel for use in the Courts. The programs may look different to the user; However, they are all based on the same calculation formulas that are listed in the California Family Code.

The child support calculator essentially works by analyzing three basic factors:

  1. The number of children, if any, in a family. In addition, the program must also consider the percentage of the time that each parent has custody of the children.

  2. The income (if any) of each of the parents.

  3. Other specific input figures that the Family Code allows the Court to consider when making an award of Child or Spousal Support.

The first factors to be input are the number of children, and the percentage of time that each parent has parenting time with the children. This is commonly known as the timeshare. The higher the timeshare of the non-custody parent, the less the support amount they may be required to pay.

The support calculator next calculates the net income of the parents. The attorney enters each parent's gross income, and the program figures out how much money they actually take home after Federal and State taxes are deducted.

Obviously, an attorney who represents a higher income parent needs to look for every entry that will reduce his client's net income. In the alternative, the opposing attorney will try to figure out every legal factor to have the child support calculator make that parent's net income higher.

There are also other inputs that a careful Family Law attorney will look into to make sure that the child support order is accurate. Parents are able to deduct certain monthly expenses from their income. This often include union dues, health insurance premiums and mandatory retirement plan contributions. The court can also consider tax deductions that will affect a parent's tax obligation. This usually will include any tax deductable mortgage interest.

I have calculated the results of the support calculator program for a typical family scenario.

This sample family has two children. Mother has primary custody and Father has 30% timeshare. He earns around $70,000 per year and Mother earns $2,500 per month. Father has deductions from his income of $300 for union dues and health insurance to cover the children.

The child support calculation program results in a Child Support order of $1,197 per month from Father to Mother. In addition, the Spousal Support order is $180 from Husband to Wife.

The important message is that an experienced family law attorney should be very careful when discussing support issues with their client. The attorney must make sure that every possible factor that will benefit their client is considered by the court when the matter of child support or spousal support is at issue.

I have intended this to be a very brief intorduction to the logic behind the support calculation program. It goes without saying that each case presents a different set of facts. I would recommend that any party that has a support issue pending before the court spend some time at least consulting with an attorney who is experienced in the use of this program.

No parent who is ordered to pay support wants it incorrectly set too high, and no parent who is ordered to receive support wants it incorrectly set too low.

Additional resources provided by the author

The best place to start for more information is the California Department of Child Support Services. Their web page has a wealth of information on this subject.

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