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How is child support calculated in California?

For parents getting divorced, it's hard to avoid thinking about child support. If you think you'll be the one paying child support, you may worry whether you'll be able to afford it. And if you think you'll be the one receiving child support, you may worry about whether it will be enough.

In California, you have two main options: either you can figure out child support with your spouse (usually with the help of an attorney), or a judge will decide which parent will pay child support and how much they will pay.

How does a judge decide this? There's a formula in California law that helps courts make this calculation, taking into account a wide range of financial and personal information. Usually, the parent the children live with is the parent who receives child support, but this isn't automatically the case.

Here are some of the things California's child support formula includes:

  • All income of both parents, including wages, unemployment or workers' compensation benefits, interest and rental income
  • The earning power of both parents (that is, even if you're not currently working, how much you could earn)
  • The number of children
  • How much time each parent spends with each child
  • Any child support either parent receives from other relationships
  • Health insurance and other health care costs
  • Daycare and education costs

The state provides a Child Support Calculator that anyone can use to get an estimate of how much their child support order would be, which can give you an idea of what to expect in court. This can also be helpful if you and your spouse decide to try to come to an agreement about child support with the help of an attorney.

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