How child support is calculated in divorce cases can be perplexing and even frustrating. But there is a method to the madness.
There is a child support guideline formula in the state of California that is used to determine the appropriate amount of money due to the parent who has legal custody. Net income and the quantity of time each parent spends with the children are two major factors in calculating child support payments.
With these two main factors in mind, the California Family Court calculates child support based on each parent’s net income and the amount of time a child spends with either parent. There are additional factors in calculating child support payments, such as: child care expenses, medical insurance premiums, home mortgage payments, tax filing status and any other expenses that can impact the family’s financial situation.
A judge will begin the process by looking very closely at the amount of time each parent spends with the children. This amount of time is then entered into a complex formula that is used to calculate support payments, often referred to as the “J Factor.” This element is named so because the California Child Support Guideline operates using a mathematical formula in which “J” refers to the amount of time the non-custodial parent spends with the child or children. The formula used in calculating child support is the same in every case and in every court in California. Because the formula used to calculate the child support amounts is complicated, the court most commonly utilizes a computer program called a Dissomaster™ to calculate the monthly child support amounts.
An experienced family law attorney will know how to negotiate what gets calculated into the non-custodial parent’s net income. This can include bonuses, commissions, overtime pay or any other form of income that occurs on a regular basis. Such calculations will help to ensure that the proper amount of child support is received each month.
Because basic child support doesn’t include child care or uninsured medical expenses, the court will consider these expenses in addition to the guideline support. This is called a mandatory add-on. Generally, each adult is responsible for paying half of the child care expenses if the custodial parent is employed full time.