At our San Jose family law firm, the most common questions we get from divorcing or recently divorced parents generally revolve around child support. This interest is certainly understandable: child support is one of the few financial obligations that cannot be discharged or dismissed even in the most dire of financial circumstances. Also, depending upon the age of the children at the time of the split and the terms of the order or agreement, parents can expect to pay support for 10, 18 or even more than 20 years.

So how is child support calculated in California? Unfortunately, there is no uniform, set formula that dictates exactly how much a parent should pay. It would be near impossible to enact such a formula because of the vast differences in the financial and other circumstances of families throughout the state.

Instead, state family law has laid down a general range of child support payment amounts and several guidelines that family court judges are to use when determining where in that range paying parents should fall. Some of the guidelines considered by the court are:

  • The income of both parents and any financial obligations of the paying parent, including loan payment, taxes and other child support obligations
  • The financial needs of the child, including child care, education, health care, insurance and the like
  • The child's standard of living before the divorce

Another important detail is when the support obligation will end. Although child support payments traditionally end on a child's 18th birthday or graduation from high school, some courts are now requiring payments until the child graduates from college.

Source: Reuters, "How Child Support Calculations Work," Andrew Lu, Aug. 12, 2012