To determine the amount of support that needs to be paid, those factors, and others, are entered into a standardized computer program that California has been using since before the mid-1980s. There are three components to it. The higher income will still contribute money to the other side, even if the kids are with both sides equally.
One version of this program is called the DissoMaster. There is also a program called ex spouse, and then there is a program that the Department of Child Support Services uses. These programs take essentially the same approach.
The numbers are the same regardless of which one you use. Occasionally, the Child Support Services program will have a kind of oddity, but generally, the numbers come out very close to each other.
Q: Can you choose which program is used for the calculation?
No, but these programs will make a compromise between the numbers simply because each side is going to have elements that favor them. The numbers aren’t that wide apart that it usually makes a difference as to which software program the court uses.
Q: Are there other factors besides time of custody and income that go into the equation?
Although there are about 12 or 14 different factors that go into the child support calculation, there are three main factors. The computer program has the tax tables built into it, so any taxable event, such as paying a mortgage payment or property taxes, or putting deductible money into a 401k, etc. go into the calculation. These additional factors adjust the numbers somewhat, but normally does not make a big difference.
Then, there are things like your health insurance premium for the family, and if you are paying for that, it means you pay a little less child support.
If you have mandatory union dues or retirement taken out of your check where you have no choice, the court also factors that in because that money is being taken without your control.
If you are remarried, your new spouse’s income goes into the calculation, which affects your tax bracket and affects the number, so that too goes into the calculation.
Any of the above additional factors seldom make a significant change and basically, it comes down to the division of custody time and the two gross incomes.
Q: If our children are in private school, does tuition factor into the child support equation?
No. The tuition is a factor above and beyond, so private school or public school doesn’t change the amount of child support you’re paying.
It does affect what we call an “add-on.” You have base child support, which is what we’ve been talking about up to this point, and then you have extras — things like daycare, private school, or uninsured medical expenses for kids. Those are extras that the parents need to share above the court child support.
Q: Are “add-on” costs a negotiating point in a divorce?
Some things are mandatory, like health care, tutoring, and psychiatric care. The rest are discretionary and things that are negotiated, like whether, at the time of the divorce, you can still afford your kids’ private school or summer camps, or extracurricular activities; those are all negotiable.