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Deviations from Child Support Guidelines in California

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The issue of when deviation from guidelines is appropriate poses a challenge for States. Too many bases for deviation undermine the effectiveness of standard calculations; yet, some flexibility is necessary to prevent inappropriate orders where unusual circumstances exist. While the standard guideline calculation addresses the basic needs of a child, deviation criteria tailor the order to meet the needs of a specific child or children. When a deviation is made, Federal law requires that the decision-maker must make findings on the record that “state the amount of support that would have been required under the guidelines and include a justification of why the order varies from the guidelines.” The standard is the best interest of the child. Some States, such as Delaware, provide little guidance to the decision- maker by way of deviation criteria. Others, such as Florida, provide detailed and specific guidelines on what constitutes the basis for deviation.

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