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Child support is the amount of money the court orders parents to pay for the basic living expenses of the children. California follows a specific formula or “guideline” to determine the amount of child support to be paid. 

California guideline child support is based on a complex equation grounded in two basic factors:

  • The difference between the incomes of the parents.
  • The disparity of time spent caring for the child.

Both factors are used in calculating monthly child support, so while the parents may have equal incomes, for example, if one parent is the majority caregiver, the other will likely be ordered to pay support.

The Child Support Process

Under California law, child support begins when one parent formally seeks it by opening a case. While it’s often a divorce matter that starts the process, there are other types of cases that allow for child support:

The California Department of Child Support Services may also file an action through a local child support agency.

How To Apply For Child Support

How to apply depends on whether you already have a family court case (or one with the local child support agency) or you’re starting a new case. Even if the parents have come to an agreement about the amount of child support to be paid, it must meet the California guideline. For help calculating the amount you can:

It’s important to note that using the self-calculator requires some understanding of California family law as well as California state and federal tax law. If you feel you don’t have the knowledge necessary to use the calculator, it’s in your and your child’s best interests to seek help from either a facilitator or family law attorney. Otherwise, you may not receive the amount you’re entitled to under California law.

If you’re currently in divorce proceedings, the court may make a temporary order for child support while the case is ongoing. Otherwise, a Request for Order for a hearing date on child support must be completed, filed, and served on the other parent.

Get The Help You Need

Child support arrangements are often one of the most contentious issues in divorce litigation or settlement in California, a particularly expensive state to live in. Establishing the appropriate child support payment from one parent to the other is crucial to your child’s well-being. If you’re dealing with child support issues in California, it can be extremely helpful to have an experienced and knowledgeable family law attorney who understands child support issues on your side. They can help you successfully navigate what is often a confusing and overwhelming process.


If you’re considering divorce in California, or simply have questions about your existing case, contact us for a free consultation.


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