California Child Support Calculator: Income And Expenses

California Child Support Calculator: Income And Expenses

by Mar 19, 2021Child Support

If you’re trying to use the online child support calculator provided by California Child Support Services, there are some important things to remember. First, it is intended to be a guideline only, not a definitive assessment of what you will have to pay after going to court or through mediation.

Second, not all income and expenses are treated the same when calculating child support, and it’s important to know what does and does not count in the equation.

Income Sources

Not every source of income, compensation or benefit you have counts as income for purposes of calculating your child support obligation.

For example, all of the following are not considered income sources:

  • Child support received from another relationship
  • Life insurance proceeds
  • Loans
  • Home equity (primary residence only)
  • Some capital gains

If you aren’t sure if an income source you have qualifies for calculating child support, you should speak with an experienced family law attorney for clarification.

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Discretionary Spending

Parents are often surprised to learn that the guideline child support calculator does not factor in common expenses like car payments, rent or mortgage, food, and clothing because these expenses are deemed “discretionary” spending.

As absurd as this may seem to many, the underlying reasoning for not allowing deductions for these types of expenses is that it is not the purpose of the child support calculator to protect the lifestyle of the parent. Allowing these types of expenses to be used to increase or reduce on parents child support obligation would leave the entire equation open to manipulation.

Income Reduction

The online child support calculator does allow for several items that will reduce gross income, which will impact your support obligation, such as taxes and other mandatory deductions.

For example, the following items can be counted against gross income:

  • State and federal income tax
  • FICA (or equivalent)
  • Mandatory union dues
  • Mandatory retirement benefit contributions
  • Health insurance premiums for you and your children
  • State disability insurance premiums
  • Other court-ordered child support or spousal support you may be paying

Another frequently missed category used to reduce gross income is job related expenses.
Even if not allowed under the tax code, job related expenses may be applied to reduce net income, as long as they are necessary for employment. This includes items like parking expenses, tools and/or equipment, uniforms, and bridge tolls.

It should be noted that certain losses or deductions to gross income that are allowed by tax codes are not included as a deduction. For example, while depreciation of rental properties is an allowed deductible under tax laws, it is not a “business operating expenditure”. Rather, it is a fictional loss.

The principle behind not allowing the deduction for purposes of the child support calculator is that it does not reduce the amount of funds available for support.

Hardship Deductions

Hardship deductions include extraordinary health expenses that the parent is financially responsible for and uninsured catastrophic losses.

There is also a hardship deduction for other natural or adopted children that reside with the parent, but this does not apply to step children.

Working With An Attorney

Determining and presenting an effective argument for reducing income or preventing a parent from reducing their income for purposes of calculating child support can take time to develop and be very complex.

It is, therefore, important to discuss your unique situation with an attorney that has a firm grasp of what is and is not income for purposes of calculating child support. To get assistance, please contact our office today.


At Vonder Haar Law Offices, we offer every client a free phone consultation to discuss their unique situation and determine how we can help. To arrange a consultation, please fill out the adjacent form or call us at: (707) 529-3200.

We provide representation in California State and Federal Courts. We accept most major credit cards for your convenience.

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