Navigating Child Support in California

Tierney Law Group


Court: Mr. X, you are hereby ordered to pay child support in the amount of $2,480 for per month for Junior, commencing immediately and continuing until the child emancipates.

Mr. X: (Gasps audibly) But your honor, after taxes are deducted, I only bring home $4,025 per month. How am I supposed to pay my rent? How can I afford food?

Court: Not my problem, Mr. X. Your child support is the first check you write.

Attorneys see this scene played out routinely in family court. The amounts may change but the shocked, angry faces are all too similar and familiar.

Family Code section 4053 states that a parent’s first and principal obligation is to support his or her minor children according to that parent’s circumstances and station in life. That section also states that each parent is mutually responsible for the support of their children.


Court: Mr. Y, you are hereby ordered to pay child support in the amount of $6,400 per month for Junior and Jennifer, commencing immediately and continuing until each child emancipates.

Mr. Y: What!? Your Honor! It doesn’t cost $6,400 a month to raise two children!! She’s (pointing at baby-momma) just going to use the support for shopping and lip filler!

Court: Not my problem, Mr. Y. The children are entitled to share in the standard of living that you enjoy.

Mr. Y: I don’t mind sharing with my kids, what I care about is her (again pointing at the other party) paying her personal trainer with my support money!

Federal law requires that states establish guidelines for child support in order for those states to receive federal funding for public assistance and enforcement programs. For this reason, the State of California has established several court-approved software programs that calculate the appropriate, aka guideline, child support amounts after entering relevant financial and custody information for each parent.

In California, our most commonly subscribed support calculation software appears to be Dissomaster, Xspouse and Supporttax. Chances are that any family law attorney you consult for your child support questions will utilize one or more of these calculators. The attorney will start by entering wage information for each party, the custody and visitation timeshare, and depending upon the sophistication of the issue involved, may enter additional information such as other taxable income, mortgage interest deductions, and so forth. There is an algebraic formula for child support that is set forth in Family Code section 4055(a) if you are a math nut. I prefer to use the software.

Child support is based upon each parent’s annual gross income from all sources (yes “All”). This may include employer-paid expenses such as living expenses, car expenses and so forth.

Furthermore, in relation to the fact that each parent is responsible for supporting a child, the court has the power to impute earnings to a parent that is deemed to be under-employed, order them to seek work and provide proof, order them to participate in a vocational evaluation, and so forth.

As can be gleaned from the information above, the State of California places the interest and well-being of its children as its top priority. Family Code section 4053(e).

If you have a need for child support, either an initial order or a modification of a previous order, or if you have an existing order that you believe to be too high or too low, please call Tierney Law Group at (925) 362-3364 or email at [email protected] and schedule a 30 minute consultation.

*Originally posted by Robin Huggins, October 2011.

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