Written by attorney Cathleen Elisabeth Norton

California Child Support - How Is Guideline Child Support Calculated?

Child support in California is calculated based on 2 factors, primarily: 1) the income of both parents and 2) how much time each parent spends with the children.

What is considered "income" for the purposes of calculating child support, you ask?

The court may consider "income" from whatever source derived. As you can see, California law defines "income" very broadly. Income includes salary, commissions, royalties, wages, bonuses, rents, dividends, pensions, interest, trust income, annuities, workers' compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, disability insurance benefits, social security benefits, and spousal support paid by someone other than the other parent.

If you are self-employed and have a business, then "income" will include gross receipts minus legitimate operating expenses. If your business pays your cell phone or car payment, for example, then the court has discretion to consider these benefits and add this amount back into your business profit--these employee "benefits" are called perquisites. If you are self-employed, you would be well advised to hire an experienced family law attorney to help you figure out how much child support you will have to pay. It is a good idea to have tax returns from the last 2 years during your consultation with a family law attorney.

If you are an employee of a company, guideline child support in California will be based on your gross income, not your take-home pay. The DissoMaster child support calculator will take into account the taxes you pay. Make sure you tell your family law attorney how you file your taxes--single, head of household, married file jointly, or married filed separately, as well as how many exemptions you claim on your tax return.

Also, make sure you tell your family law attorney if you have necessary job-related expenses, union dues, health insurance premiums deducted from your pay check, or mandatory retirement contributions. This can make a difference in how much child support you pay.

If you own a home, make sure you provide a copy of your mortgage statement to your family law attorney. Since child supporttakes into consideration the amount of interest you pay on your mortgage, your attorney will need to know this information. If you have a copy of your property tax bill, provide it to your family law attorney.

If you are wondering if the court takes into consideration what your monthly expenses are, the answer is "no." In most cases, the court does not ask whether you can afford to pay guideline child support. In California, child support is based on a mathematical formula which takes into consideration such things as your tax filing status, mortgage interest deduction, property taxes, etc. But generally speaking, your child support obligation does not take into consideration how much your car payment is, how much your credit card bills are, etc. The good news is that an experienced family law attorney will make sure that you get all of the deductions you are legally entitled to.

The Law Offices of Cathleen E. Norton is a top family law firm dedicated to protecting your legal rights. Our goal is to empower you. Our job is to protect you. Cathleen E. Norton, Esq. is an experienced family law attorney who obtained both her B.A. and J.D. credentials from UCLA. You won't find a better qualified attorney to represent you! We have offices in Beverly Hills, San Fernando Valley, and Westlake Village and service family law cases in Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. Call us today for a free consultation at (310) 300-4021. For more information about the Law Offices of Cathleen E. Norton, please visit our website at

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