Attorney Steven E. Springer at desk


Steven E. Springer Sept. 11, 2015

Calculator on top of paper billsIn California, child support amounts are calculated based on a formula. The formula provides a guideline for child support amounts, and is generally used unless there are factors indicating that a different amount should be awarded.

The purpose of the formula is twofold: to ensure that every child gets at least a minimum level of child support, and to ensure uniformity in the amount awarded to each child.


California’s mathematical formula for child support produces a guideline amount of support, which is awarded in most cases. The calculation takes into account the following:

  • Each parent’s gross income;

  • The percentage of time the child spends with each parent;

  • Any available income tax deductions;

  • Mandatory payroll deductions; and

  • Each parent’s child care costs.

The state provides an online child support calculator to be used for the calculation.


California law presumes that the number in the guideline is the right amount of support to order. Thus, judges must order the guided support unless a reason exists that a different amount is necessary.

The child support statute lists possible reasons to order a different amount, including that:

  • The parents have agreed to a different amount;

  • The payor parent has such a high income that the amount reached with the formula is unnecessarily high;

  • One parent is not paying support related to how much custodial time he or she was given;

  • Both parents have roughly equal time-sharing of the children, and one parent has a much lower or higher percentage of income spent on housing than the other parent; or

  • The children have special medical or other needs, and require larger amounts of child support.


The court may also order a parent to pay add-ons, in addition to the basic child support calculation. Add-ons are contributions to specific expenses relating to the children. Certain add-ons are mandatory, meaning that if the expenses exist, the court must add them on:

  • Costs related to employment or to reasonably necessary education or training for employment skills; and

  • Reasonable uninsured health care costs for children.

Others are discretionary, and the court may add them on if it finds the addition to be appropriate:

  • Educational or other special needs expenses; and

  • Travel expenses related to visitation.

Add-on expenses are generally to be shared equally between parents. However, when that is not reasonable, the court may allocate the expenses in proportion to the parents’ incomes.

Child support is a very important part of many children’s lives, and receiving the correct amount of support can help to ensure that your child’s needs are met and that he or she has the opportunities necessary for a successful future. If you need help in calculating child support, please contact a skilled San Jose family law attorney at The Law Offices of Steven E. Springer at 408-779-4700 to schedule your consultation in Morgan Hill, San Jose or Fremont.