The majority of California divorces involve children. Understandably, issues of both child custody/visitation and child support are of paramount concern to the parties. California uses a “guideline” support figure for child support. The actual rules for the equations can be found in the Family Code, but for those of us with something better to do with our time, there are two popularly used programs to help family law practitioners figure the “guideline” child support figure, DissoMaster and X-spouse. For the layperson, who does not have access to such a program, the California department of child support services does have a program available at its website. It only figures child support, so those looking for spousal support calculators need to use one of the other programs.
Guideline child support is based upon a number of factors, the two most important (and obvious) are child custody (timeshare) and the respective incomes of the parties. As the theory goes, a child is supposed to enjoy the same station in life as his or her parents. To help equalize the standard of living between the two households of the divorcing parents, the state created the animal known as “guideline child support.” Obviously when the child is residing with one parent, he or she is presumed to be enjoying the standard of living of that parent, e.g., living in a mansion or in a shack. It rather evens out the disparity between the households so that mansion/shack extreme does not happen. If, for example, the mother makes a substantial income and the father does not, then mother would pay “guideline child support” to father and hopefully the standards of living equalize so perhaps father no longer has to live in a shack and maybe mother won’t live in a mansion, just a really really nice house. The benefit of course is that the children aren’t subjected to extremes in their standards of living (going from feast to famine, for example) every time they change custody from one parent to another. The up side to this is that if the funds are truly used for the welfare of the children, then they directly benefit from this transference of money. The receiving spouse may indirectly benefit from this extra income, but they were after all your spouse and you shouldn’t begrudge them the indirect benefit if they truly are keeping the children in mind.
As far as custody is concerned, obviously the parent who has the greater timeshare will need greater assistance from the spouse with the lesser timeshare. For example, if the children spend 80% of their time with parent A and only 20% of their time with parent B, then parent B would be paying more support to parent A than if parent B had a higher timeshare.
As far as incomes are concerned, clearly the parent making more money will pay more money in relative terms. This goes toward equalizing the household incomes.
As always, what the parents can “waive” guideline requirements and agree to some other support arrangement. There is no sense being locked into a guideline number if both parents truly have a different arrangement in mind and it meets the needs of the children.