By Sean C. Sobottka, Esq., Attorney/Principal
In California, a parent’s “first and principal” obligation is to provide support to his or her children. To ensure that parents are fulfilling this obligation, the courts are required to order child support using a statewide, uniform guideline or calculation. The calculation accounts for the number of children, the amount of time each parent has custody, both parents’ incomes, certain deductions similar to deductions allowed on income taxes, and other relevant data. These factors are inputted into the child support calculator to determine a monthly child support amount.
Family Law Code Section 4053 states:
“In implementing the statewide uniform guideline, the courts shall adhere to the following principles:
(a) A parent's first and principal obligation is to support his or her minor children according to the parent's circumstances and station in life.
(b) Both parents are mutually responsible for the support of their children.
(c) The guideline takes into account each parent's actual income and level of responsibility for the children.
(d) Each parent should pay for the support of the children according to his or her ability.
(e) The guideline seeks to place the interests of children as the state's top priority.
(f) Children should share in the standard of living of both parents. Child support may therefore appropriately improve the standard of living of the custodial household to improve the lives of the children.
(g) Child support orders in cases in which both parents have high levels of responsibility for the children should reflect the increased costs of raising the children in two homes and should minimize significant disparities in the children's living standards in the two homes.
(h) The financial needs of the children should be met through private financial resources as much as possible.
(i) It is presumed that a parent having primary physical responsibility for the children contributes a significant portion of available resources for the support of the children.
(j) The guideline seeks to encourage fair and efficient settlements of conflicts between parents and seeks to minimize the need for litigation.
(k) The guideline is intended to be presumptively correct in all cases, and only under special circumstances should child support orders fall below the child support mandated by the guideline formula.
(l) Child support orders must ensure that children actually receive fair, timely, and sufficient support reflecting the state's high standard of living and high costs of raising children compared to other states.”
There are limited exceptions to guideline child support calculations, when the court will deviate or order a different amount. These exceptions include the following:
- If the parties agree to some other amount, the court will most likely adopt the parties’ agreement, especially if the agreed-to amount is above the guideline.
- If the obligor’s income is extraordinarily low, then the court may issue a “hardship” to the obligor, which will lower the overall support amount due.
- On the other hand, the court can also deviate from the guideline child support if the obligor’s income is extraordinarily high and the guideline child support would exceed the needs of the child or children.
For a free consultation on how to obtain child support or modify an existing child support order, please contact the Law Office of Sean C. Sobottka: 310.735.9814 or mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.