Why Child Support Is So High in California
Public policy in California strongly favors adequate child support, which is expressed in the Statewide Uniform Guideline for determining child support. The guideline requires the court to compute child support based on a provided algebraic formula that accounts for the parent’s incomes and custodial time with the child. The amount of child support established by the formula is presumed to be the correct amount to be ordered. Thus, courts cannot just pull out figures out of thin air when ordering the amount for child support. Courts can only apply its discretion in certain cases provided by law.
The Statewide Uniform Guideline applies when the court is ordering any of the following:
- Permanent Child Support
- Temporary Child Support
- Expedited Child Support
- Modification of an existing order for child support
- Family Support
“Family Support” usually refers to instances when child and spousal support are combined.
Principles in Implementing The Child Support Guideline
The court is guided by certain principles set down by law in applying the guidelines. As enumerated in Fam C § 4053, they are:
- 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.
- Parents are naturally responsible for their children’s support.
- The guideline must take into account each parent’s actual income and level of responsibility towards the children.
- The children’s interests are the state’s top priority
- Children should share in both parents’ standard of living, and the child support may appropriately improve the standard of living of the custodial household to improve the children’s lives.
- 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.
- Children’s financial needs should be met through private financial resources as much as possible.
- A parent who has primary physical responsibility for the children is presumed to contribute a significant portion of available resources for the children’s support.
- The intent of this guideline is to encourage fair and efficient settlements of conflicts between parents and to minimize litigation.
- Child support orders should ensure that children receive fair, timely and sufficient support that reflects the state’s high standard of living and high costs of raising children compared to other states.
- This guideline enjoys a presumption of correctness in all cases. Only under special circumstances should child support orders fall below the amount of support mandated by the guideline formula.
When a parent is wealthy, the measurement of the child’s need is based on the parent’s current station in life, not on the basic needs or historic expenses of the children.
Child support awards must reflect a minor child’s right to be maintained in a lifestyle and condition consonant with the parent’s position in society after divorce, unlike spousal support awards that require a consideration of the parents’ standard of living during marriage.
In light of the principles that the court is required to implement when calculating child support, it’s no surprise the child support awards in California often exceed the actual cost of raising a child.