When parents divorce in California, both remain responsible for financially supporting their minor children. The state uses established guidelines to determine which parent should pay child support and the monthly payment amount.

Learn about the factors that influence child support calculations in California.

Net disposable income

California courts first calculate each parent’s net disposable income. This number represents the amount he or she earns after paying child support for another relationship, health insurance premiums, mandatory retirement contributions, mandatory dues to a union and taxes.

In addition to salary and wages, income includes prizes and lottery winnings, income from rental properties, stock and dividend income, pension payments, Social Security income, workers’ compensation benefits, disability benefits and unemployment benefits. Both parents must provide full disclosure of these items when they file for divorce or child support.

Custody and parenting time

The support order will also vary depending on the number of hours each parent spends with the child each month. Having a larger share of parenting time typically results in paying a lower amount of child support. Typically, the parent who spends more time with the child will receive support while the other parent must pay support. However, the state uses the same child support formula for families who have joint and sole physical custody.

Monthly expenses

The court will also account for the child’s monthly expenses, including but not limited to:

  • Health insurance premiums and other health care costs
  • Shelter, food and clothing
  • Extracurricular costs, such as lessons, field trips and sports
  • Visitation expenses, such as travel to and from the other parent’s home
  • Child care and education costs

In California, support payments continue until the child graduates from high school and reaches age 18. Payment also ends if the child turns 19 and is still in school, joins the military, marries or becomes legally emancipated. If a child has a disability and is unable to live independently, the court can arrange for ongoing support into adulthood. You can use the online tool provided by the state to estimate your California child support payments.