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Grounds for deviations from the child support guideline amount

On Behalf of | Mar 10, 2022 | High-net Worth Child Support |

When setting child support amounts in California, the courts use a complex calculation that factors in each parents’ income, the tax deductions available to both and how much time each parent spends with the child. The courts apply this formula — otherwise known as the Statewide Child Support Guideline — in all cases of divorce or separation, paternity cases and cases involving domestic partnerships.

The purpose of the guideline is twofold. On the one hand, it provides for a minimum amount of child support for children of divorce. On the other, it ensures uniformity in how the courts calculate and set child support amounts. To achieve their goals, the California courts only allow for deviations from the guidelines in unique and limited circumstances.

Grounds for deviations from the Statewide Child Support Guideline amount

In creating the child support guideline, California lawmakers acknowledged that situations may arise in which the calculated child support amount may not be fair or reasonable. As a result, the California Family Code Section 4057(b) contains a list of factors that may warrant a deviation from the guidelines:

  • The parties agreed to a different amount while remaining compliant with the law
  • The payer has an extraordinarily high income, and the calculated amount would far exceed the child’s needs
  • Either party does not contribute to the child’s needs at a level that is proportionate to their custodial time
  • The application of the formula is inappropriate or unjust due to circumstances that are unique to the case; examples of unique circumstances include a child who has excessive medical needs, parents who have different time-sharing agreements for other children, and situations in which both parents have equal time-sharing, but one party has a significantly higher or lower percentage of income than the other for housing purposes

The courts may also order add-ons for specific child-rearing expenses.

Courts’ responsibilities when deviating from the guidelines

If a judge determines that a deviation is necessary, he or she must submit, in writing, a report that details the factors that contributed to his or her decision. According to the California Family Code Section 4056(a), the report must include the amount calculated with the state formula, the reasons the set amount differs from the formula amount and how the deviated amount is consistent with the child’s best interests.

If either party requests it, the judge must also state on the record or in writing what information he or she used to come to his or her decision. Applicable information includes each parents’ net monthly disposable income, deductions from gross income, the filing status of each parent and the approximate percentage of parenting time of each parent.

The courts rarely deviate from the child support guidelines. Parties who hope for a deviation must understand what factors warrant exceptions and know how to plead their case to the courts.