Courts may consider a multitude of factors when making child support determinations. And the court usually has final discretion to ultimately set an amount for child support payments. But for most cases, the starting point for the court’s decision process in California’s statutory uniform child support guidelines. These guidelines appear in Section 4055 of the California Family Code and are subject to periodic review and revision by the legislature based on advice by the Judicial Council.

California’s uniform child support guidelines establish a formula for determining child support payments. This formula considers a variety of factors, including the number of children, the total monthly disposable income of each parent, and the approximate percentage of time the child spends in the custody of each parent. This formula can be difficult to apply, so the California Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) has provided an online calculator for determining likely child support obligations.

Courts generally accord great deference to California’s uniform child support guidelines, making them perhaps the most determinative factor in Santa Barbara child support decisions. But they are, nevertheless, simple guidelines. California courts reserve ultimate discretion to depart from these guidelines should they determine the individual circumstances warrant it. If a court chooses to do so, however, it must state the following in its child support order—the amount of support that would have been awarded under the uniform guidelines; the reasons why the court-ordered support payments that differ from the guidelines; and the reasons why the court’s support determination is in the best interest of the child or children involved.

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Last update of the article: 07/08/2020

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