How is Child Support Calculated in California?

By: LawInfo
Both parents are responsible for financially supporting their child(ren). The custodial parent directly supports his or her child(ren) by providing housing, buying groceries, paying for clothing, school activities, and covering other expenses. The non­custodial parent pays child support to help cover these costs.

The amount of child support to be paid by parents is based on the amount of time each parent spends with the child and their net disposable incomes. CalWORKS grants are not considered income for purposes of calculating child support. Income is money from sources including: self­employment, job wages, savings accounts, unemployment money, disability and workers` compensation, interest, dividends, rents, Social Security and any other payments or credits due or becoming due regardless of source. The court may consider the amount of money he or she thinks the parent could be making, instead of the parent`s actual income.

Net disposable income is calculated by taking a person`s total income and subtracting certain expenses, such as federal and state income taxes, health insurance premiums, state disability insurance, and Social Security taxes. The judge/commissioner may also consider other expenses, including the cost of raising a child from another relationship, exceptional health care expenses, uninsured catastrophic losses, mandatory union dues, or retirement contributions.

Child support covers only ordinary living expenses for a child. It does not include things like childcare, medical bills not paid by insurance, travel expenses for visitation with the other parent, or a child`s special education needs. Parents must specifically ask the judge to include these additional expenses in the child support order. If they do not, the costs may be divided so that each parent pays 50 percent.

Once each parent`s net disposable income is calculated, the child support guideline is used to determine the percentage of net disposable income to be paid as child support.

The table below is a general guideline for determining the percentage of net income which will be allocated to child support. However, the child support award will be reduced to reflect the amount of time each parent spends with the child(ren). The FSD or local child support agency will calculate the amount of child support in your case, although the court will determine the final amount.

One child 25%
Two children 40%
Three children 50%


A custodial parent (in this case the mother) and non­custodial parent (the father) have one child. If the father`s net disposable income is $2,000 per month his share of child support would be $500 a month (25% of 2,000). If the mother`s net disposable income is $1,500 per month, her share of child support would be $375 a month (25% of 1,500). These percentages are then adjusted according to the amount of time each parent spends with the child.

The law requires the court to order one or both parents to provide health insurance coverage for their child(ren), including vision and dental care coverage, if it is available through a job or group insurance plan at no or reasonable cost to the parent.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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