California has established guidelines for child support payments. However, in some cases, the parents might agree to amounts outside of these guidelines, either higher or lower, as long as the parents are informed about the guidelines, the family’s situation fits within the approved exceptions and the support amounts correctly cover the children’s financial needs.
How child support is calculated
In calculating the amount of child support that needs to be paid, courts consider a variety of factors involving the family. These factors include:
- Each parent’s income
- Childcare costs
- Educational and extracurricular expenses
- Health insurance and other health-related costs
- Expenses for travel, particularly if related to visitation
Once all factors are considered, parents can use the state formula to figure out the support payment guidelines for their family and then agree to pay support within the guidelines.
Exceptions to the guidelines
In some situations, however, parents might come to an agreement for lower or higher support payments. In order to have the court approve it, parents must meet several requirements, including:
- The state guidelines for child support
- Not having applied for or receiving public assistance
- Establishing a support amount that meets all of the children’s financial needs
- Both parents acting in the best interests of the child in deciding the support amount
- Both parents working in good faith during the negotiations and neither feeling pressured into the agreement
- Having the approval of the judge for the agreement
After you and your spouse have agreed to a support amount, you need to draw up a written document or stipulation that states all the details of the support agreement. It must be signed by both parents and then submitted to the judge for approval. If the judge approves the agreement outside the guidelines, then the judge signs it and it becomes the child support order.