Like other states, California has a set of Child Support Guidelines that the family courts throughout the state, including in Los Angeles, are expected to apply.
The Guidelines provide a numerical formula for calculating an appropriate amount of child support. However, this does not mean that the number is set in stone.
Judges can deviate from the Guidelines in limited circumstances
The Guidelines themselves give judges the ability to deviate from them and order an amount of child support that is tailored to the parents’ circumstances.
In order to secure a deviation, the parent wanting the change will have to prove that the Guidelines are unjust or unreasonable for one of the reasons listed in California law.
One common reason judges may deviate include the fact that one or both parents have very high income. Forcing these parents to pay strictly by the Guideline formula would otherwise result in an overpayment.
Another reason is that a child or children have special needs, and the Guidelines just do not call for enough support to meet those needs.
Of course, parents can and often do disagree about whether and to what extent the Child Support Guidelines should apply.
Sometimes, the numbers that go into the formula are in dispute
Moreover, while the child support formula is fixed by the Guidelines, the numbers that the court puts into the formula to make the calculation are not.
By way of example, each parent’s income get entered the formula; the higher the dollar amount of the income, the more support that parent will be responsible for. Not surprisingly, a parent’s income can be the source of contention.
Sometimes, figuring a parent’s income is not just a matter of looking at a paycheck. Many parents are in business for themselves, so it will be necessary to get an accurate idea of how much profit these parents are earning. In some cases, courts may even consider employment-related businesses, like the use of a company car.