California has uniform child support guidelines to calculate child support obligations. However, a judge is not bound by the guidelines. The judge can deviate from California’s child support guidelines in some situations.

What Does the Law Say About Deviating From California’s Child Support Guidelines?

Judges have the discretion to deviate from child support guidelines for good cause shown, according to the California Rules of Court. To deviate from the uniform child support guidelines, a judge must enter an order stating the court’s findings or state the findings on the record.

The amount calculated using the state child support guidelines is presumed to be the correct amount. However, California Family Code §4057(b) states that the presumption is rebuttable.

Therefore, a parent can allege that the amount of child support calculated by the guidelines is inappropriate or unjust. They must file a declaration with the court objecting to child support as calculated by the guidelines. Their declaration must state the amount they allege it should be and provide a legal and factual basis for deviating from the child support guidelines.

Other situations where judges can deviate from the guidelines include, but are not limited to:

The Parents Agree To Deviate From the Child Support Guidelines

The parents may agree to deviate from the uniform child support guidelines. A judge must review the agreement to ensure it is just and in the best interests of the child.

A Parent Has Extraordinarily High Income

The code also addresses situations where a parent being ordered to pay child support has extraordinarily high income. In these situations, the amount determined using the child support formula could exceed the needs of the children. In this case, the judge can deviate from the guidelines to adjust the child support to an amount that reflects the child’s actual needs.

However, the “needs” of a child in this situation do not necessarily warrant decreasing the child support calculation. The law recognizes that a child should not be deprived of the economic benefits of having a parent with an extraordinarily high income. The child has a right to share in the lifestyle of both parents.

Payment of Add-Ons to Child Support Obligations

Judges typically order parents to pay for mandatory add-ons to child support. Add-ons often include child care costs, uninsured health care costs, health insurance premiums, education costs, and a child’s special needs. The judge may divide the amount between the parents or order one parent to pay the entire amount.

Applying the Child Support Formula Is Unjust or Inappropriate

The code lists specific situations that may justify a judge deviating from the child support guidelines because using the guidelines would result in an unjust or inappropriate amount of support. Those special circumstances include, but are not limited to:

  • Child custody cases involving differing time-sharing schedules for different children
  • In custody cases where the parents share custody 50/50 but a parent has a much higher or lower percentage of their income going toward housing costs compared with the other parent
  • When a child has special needs or medical expenses that require child support that is much greater than the child support payments calculated using the formula
  • Cases involving children who have more than two parents

The above situations are typically rare, but these provisions allow judges to deviate from the child support formula to ensure fair and just support.

Parent’s Income Is Very Low

If a parent’s income is very low, the court may grant a downward deviation from the child support guidelines. This situation occurs when the guidelines amount would result in the parent having insufficient funds to pay for their necessary living expenses.

Travel Expenses To Exercise Visitation

This circumstance might apply if, for instance, one parent lives in another state and must pay travel expenses to exercise visitation with their children. In this case, the judge could reduce the child support amount. However, the amount of the travel expense significantly impacts the degree of the child support deviation.

Living Rent or Mortgage Free

A judge can deviate from the guidelines for child support in California when a parent does not have to pay rent or mortgage payments for their residence. In this case, the judge may increase child support payments because the parent has a higher net disposable income, even though their gross income may be lower than the other parent.

Do You Have Questions About Deviating From Child Support Guidelines in California?

Child support calculations can be very complicated. Deviations can significantly change how much child support you receive or pay. If you have questions, schedule a complimentary case evaluation with a San Diego child support attorney.

Contact Our Family Law Firm in San Diego, CA

Contact our experienced San Diego family law lawyers at San Diego Divorce Lawyers, APC today for legal assistance. Contact our San Diego office at (619) 866-3756 to schedule a free consultation.

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San Diego, CA 92108