Child Support: Mandatory & Discretionary Child Support Add-Ons


Guideline Child Support

Child support in California is determined by a statewide formula which includes multiple factors including, but not limited to:

  • The custodial time share between the parents of the minor children;
  • The gross pre-tax earnings of each parent; and
  • Certain permitted deductions, which includes mandatory retirement contributions and health insurance.

Lawyers and family court judges use computer programs such as Dissomaster and Xspouse to calculate child support. These programs incorporate algorithms that have been approved by the California Legislature to ensure that the calculations are consistent regardless of what program is used.

For the most part, calculating support is straightforward: simply populate the program fields with income, time share, and allowable deductions and the program will render a child support calculation that is presumptively correct. This means that the court will adopt this support calculation for most situations. In certain situations, such as one party earns a very high income, the court has the discretion to deviate downwards from guideline support. However, such downward deviations are rare require the court to make findings that doing so is necessary and proper.

Things become a little more challenging, however, where one party is self-employed. For example, self-employed parties have the ability to conceal income and/or inflate business operating expenses, which has the same effect of concealing income. Either tactic will serve to reduce child support. In such situations it may become necessary to retain the services of an attorney and forensic accountant to examine business records to determine true income available for child support.

Mandatory and Discretionary Child Support Add-Ons

The California Family Code also provides for mandatory add-ons beyond the guideline child support calculation. For example, all childcare costs related to training for employment, or necessary education for employment will be added to base guideline child support. In addition, if childcare is necessary in order for one of the parents to hold employment, the court will require both parties to split that childcare cost, even if it only benefits one parent. Next, all reasonable health care costs that are not covered by insurance for the child or children such as co-pays, prescription medicine, vision, dental, orthodontic or counseling are all subject to equal division, and if they occur on a regular and consistent basis, the court will include this amount as part of a child support add-on.

Finally, the courts have the authority to award discretionary child support add-ons. Such examples include extra-curricular activities, summer camps, sports, and just about any other activity that is reasonably in the child's best educational interests. Also included in the discretionary category are travel expenses to facilitate visitation.

Contact a Santa Clarita Divorce Lawyer

Martinelli Law Group is located in Santa Clarita, serving communities in Saugus, Canyon Country, Valencia, Newhall, and more. If you have any questions regarding divorce, child custody disputes, child support requests, spousal support, questions about modifying a child support order, or if you need assistance with including mandatory or discretionary child support add-ons, please call family law attorney Eric Martinelli with the Martinelli Law Group for a free consultation.