What is Considered Income For Child Support in California?

Hossein Berenji, Oct 27, 2021

California law establishes a non-negotiable financial responsibility for parents. Parents must provide for their child’s needs according to their means. California uses a statewide calculator to determine what a parent owes in child support.

This calculator accounts for two major factors: the amount of residential time a parent spends with a child and their income. However, it may not always be clear to a parent what is and is not considered income under California’s child support laws.

The income of a parent is calculated by deducting various qualifying expenses from their gross income. The types of qualifying expenses that may be applicable are similar to those that one might deduct when calculating income taxes.

This can be a complex topic. It’s best to enlist the help of a family law attorney if you are involved in a dispute regarding child support. However, the following overview will answer some of your basic questions about the subject.

Income for Child Support in California

In California, the following things qualify as income when calculating child support payment amounts:

  • Salaries
  • Wages
  • Tips
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Bonuses
  • Disability benefits
  • Social security income (that is taxable)
  • Income from rental properties
  • Retirement income
  • Income from investments
  • Any regularly-occurring payments from family members

Those are the most common examples of income sources in child support cases. However, that is not necessarily an exhaustive list.

Self-Employment Income and Child Support in California

Self-employment income is also factored in when calculating what a parent owes in child support. That said, while the IRS allows you to make certain self-employment deductions, they are not always deductible when calculating child support.

Do not make the mistake of assuming your tax return will provide you with a clear and accurate idea of what your actual income may be. Consult with a lawyer if you are self-employed. An attorney can help you understand how your self-employment income may influence what you may owe in child support.

How Residential Time and Need Impact Child Support

Courts will often place significant emphasis on a parent’s residential time with a child when determining whether a parent is in need of child support payments after a divorce or separation. In most instances, the parent with the most residential time with a child is regarded as the one most involved in raising them. Therefore, courts will generally consider that parent as having the greater need for child support payments.

Raising a child can also make it difficult for a parent to find and keep a full-time job. This is another factor that may contribute to a court’s decision regarding who should pay more in child support.

However, there are instances when a parent voluntarily chooses not to work. They may not face any significant barriers to employment, but they nevertheless don’t seek employment. When this happens, a court may calculate their income based on what they could earn if they were to look for a job.

Determining a parent’s income level (and their degree of responsibility in regard to child support) can often be challenging. This is especially true in cases involving self-employment, high-net worth divorces, and divorces involving business ownership. This is why it’s not uncommon for disputes to arise when child support is being calculated.

Strongly consider hiring a qualified California child support and family law attorney if you are involved in such a dispute. Their expertise can help simplify what may otherwise be an overwhelming and confusing situation.