Policy Behind California Child Support
California family law has a strong public policy favoring the provision of adequate child support. This policy is executed through the implementation of the State Uniform Guideline when calculating child support. The Guideline is an algebraic formula that heavily weighs income and the percentage of time the parents will have primary physical responsibility for the children. Unfortunately for higher-income working parents with stay-at-home spouses, the Guideline often produces burdensome child support awards for the higher-earning parent.
The policies underlying the Guideline formula are found in Family Code Section 4053. That section states that courts must adhere to the following principles when implementing the Statewide Uniform Guideline:
- A parent’s first and primary obligation is the support of their minor children according to their circumstances and station in life.
- Both parents are responsible for the support of their children.
- The Uniform Guideline takes into account each parent’s actual income and level of responsibility for the children.
- Each parent should pay for the support of their children according to each parent’s ability.
- Children should share in the standard of living of both parents. Accordingly, child support can improve the standard of living of the custodial parent’s household to improve the lives of the children.
- When both parents have a high level of responsibility for the children the child support order should reflect the increased costs of raising the children in two homes and minimize significant disparities in the children’s standard of living in the two homes.
- The financial needs of the children should be met through the private financial resources of the parents as much as possible.
- It is presumed that a parent with primary physical responsibility for the child spends a significant portion of available resources on the child’s support.
- The Uniform Guideline is designed to encourage fair and efficient settlements of conflicts between the parents and minimize the need for litigation.
- The Uniform Guideline is presumptively correct in all cases, and only under special circumstances should child support ll below the child support amount produced by the guideline formula.
- Child support order must ensure that children receive fair, timely, and sufficient support reflecting California’s high standard of living and high costs of raising children compared to other states.
As a result of the above policies and case law, wealthy parents in divorce may be burdened with significant child support awards. Case law has found that children have a right to share in the wealthy parent’s standard of living, even if that parent chooses to live modestly. Likewise, child support awards must reflect the child’s right to be maintained in a lifestyle consistent with the parents’ position in society post-divorce. Working parents in a single-income household and wealthy parents should consult a Sacramento family law attorney to address contested child support issues in divorce.