In California, the courts look at two main factors when deciding how much child support to award and to which parent. While parents can negotiate and agree on an amount to submit to the court so it becomes a child support order, they will also have to consider the same factors during their negotiations.
The custody arrangement
An important factor in determining the amount of child support to be paid by a parent for their child is how much time the child will spend with each parent. Custody arrangements are different for each family, and these include:
• Shared parenting time, where the child spends time about equally with each parent
• Main custodial parenting time and visitation, where one parent has custody of the child most of the time
• Split parenting time, where the family has more than one child and each parent has custody of one child most of the time
While custody arrangements are important, they are not the sole factor considered for support. What the parent earns after tax and other required deductions is also used to determine the amount of child support awarded and who pays and who receives the support. Income can include bonuses, commissions, overtime pay and any other money that each parent receives on a regular basis, with the exception of financial assistance from the government, such as SSI and CalWORKs benefits.
Child support payments are designed to ensure that the child has all their financial needs met no matter which parent they are spending time with. While in many cases the parent receiving the support will be the parent who spends more time taking care of the child, in some cases where there is a significant difference in income, the other parent, who has less income, might receive support payments instead.