THE FORMULA: CS = K (HN - (H%) (TN)), WHAT??????????
Potential clients and current clients have similar concerns when it comes to spousal support and child support. If they are the payor (the person writing the check) or the person receiving party (the one receiving the check) they want to know the amount for spousal support and child support. I will be addressing both of these issues in separate articles but since children are always the priority, I will start with the process for calculation that amount.
In California, child support is a numbers game. It is a complex algorithm that would take a PhD in math to understand or explain. To aide in the calculation of support, there are programs that family law attorneys and the court uses based on certain inputs. The components of the calculation are as follows: The parents’ incomes, how much time each parent spends with the child, and any tax deductions that are available to either parent.
The formula is the same whether it is a case concerning a dissolution (divorce), separation or paternity case (where the parents were never married), and domestic partnership cases. The guideline is a rebuttable presumption as the correct child support amount in the case. There are limited reasons to modify the child support calculations: If the parent being ordered to pay child support has an extraordinarily high income and the amount determined under the formula would exceed the needs of the children, a parent is not contributing to the needs of the children at a level commensurate with that parent’s custodial time, both parents have substantially equal time with the children and one parent has a much lower or higher percentage of income used for housing than the other parent, or the children have special medical or other needs that could require child support greater than the formula amount. While not a comprehensive list, the Court will consider other reasons to deviate from guideline, but this is rare.
The Goal of Guideline Support
The overriding public policy in California is to provide for the well-being of the child and that the parents equally share in that responsibility, which includes financial support. The guideline calculation assists in ensuring that children have a minimum level of child support and also provides for uniformity in the child support calculations throughout the state.
The guideline statute begins by setting forth the principles that courts are to follow in applying the rules. Among those principles are the following:
• Parents’ first and principal obligation is to support their minor children according to each parent's situation and station in life.
• Both parents are mutually responsible for supporting their children.
• The guideline is presumed to be correct in all cases, and only under special circumstances should child support orders fall below the child support mandated by the guideline formula.
• Child support orders must ensure that children actually receive fair, timely, and sufficient support, which reflects the state’s high standard of living and high costs of raising children compared to other states.
To determine child support, you must have:
• Parent’s gross income
• The percentage of time that the child spends with each parent
• The tax deductions that are available to both parties, such as mortgage interest or property taxes.
• Mandatory payroll deductions, such as health insurance, pensions, and union dues, and
• And payroll deductions into retirement plans such as 401(k)s.
These are the basic inputs that are used and the more information that you provide, the more accurate the inputs for the calculation. The Court may also add reoccurring child care costs due to employment (which are mandatory add-ons) and reasonable uninsured medical costs. Generally, these two add-ons will be divided equally absent significant differences in the incomes of the parties. Additionally, the Court may consider other regularly occurring expenses on a case by case basis.
If you would like to try the formula yourself, here it is, but don’t ask me for help! I use a software program.
CS = K (HN - (H%) (TN)).
Here’s what the letters mean:
• CS is the child support amount. This is what the formula will calculate once you’ve plugged in all of your information. The amount will be for one child. If a couple has more children, they must multiply the CS amount by a figure set out in the law, which depends on the number of children.
• K is the combined total of both parents' income to be allocated for child support. (The amount of the parents' combined income that must be devoted to child support, in turn, depends on how much the parents earn and on how much time the higher-earning parent spends with the child.)
• HN stands for high net: The net monthly disposable income of the parent who earns more.
• H% is the approximate percentage of time that the high earner has or will have primary physical responsibility for the children compared to the other parent. (For example, that parent might have the children 25% of the time, while the other parent has them 75% of the time.) In cases in which parents have different time-sharing arrangements for different children, H% equals the average of the approximate percentages of time the high earner parent spends with each child.
• TN is the combined total net monthly disposable income of both parents.