According to the State of California, the primary duty of a parent is to provide financial support for his or her children. In some cases, a parent’s financial obligation to the children may take precedence over the obligation to care for a child. For parents who are separated or divorced, a parent may be required to provide their children with financial support through a court-ordered child support plan.

California courts use a legal “guideline” to calculate child support obligations.  The amount of support that should be paid is based on each parent’s “net disposable income,” as well as the amount of time the children spend under each parent’s roof.

Under the guideline formula,net disposable income is computed by taking a parent’s income and deducting the actual income taxes due (and not just the payroll withholding) on that income. From that figure, certain mandatory expenses such as health care premiums, union dues and other mandatory payroll deductions are tallied and removed. What is left over is considered their net disposable income.

Both parents in a child support determination are required to submit financial information to establish their net disposable incomes. This is commonly done through the completion of an Income and Expense Declaration form, available from the court.

Figuring out how much child support a child should receive is a significant undertaking. The courts of California are generally required to use the state’s guidelines to set a child support award for a child. However, as readers of this family law blog may know, there are a few, limited circumstances where courts are permitted to deviate from the guidelines in order to serve the needs of specific children.

Parents who want more information about computing child support, guideline deviations and other child support matters may want to seek professional help. With the right information at hand, parents can better understand how child support is calculated in California.