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According to California Family Code, section 4503, both mother and father or former partners are mutually responsible for the support of their shared children. Furthermore, both parents must pay for the support of the child per each’s ability. To ensure that parents fulfill their support obligations, the state of California requires family judges to order child support in divorce and child custody cases.

Unlike when determining custody, a process during which a judge can use his or her discretion, judges must abide by established guidelines when setting child support amounts. To ensure utmost fairness, judges take into consideration the financial needs of a child, the standard of living each parent is capable of providing and each parent’s ability to provide for the child via private means.

According to the Judicial Branch of California, the courts determine a parent’s ability to pay by considering several relevant factors. Relevant factors include but are not limited to each parent’s income or earning capacity, the number of children the parents share, how much time each parent spends with the children, the tax filing status of each parent and the support of children from other relationships. The courts will also take into consideration expenses such as health insurance, mandatory union dues, retirement contributions and the cost of daycare, amongst other factors.

The formula is a statewide one and presumed to be correct. Courts do not have the freedom to deter from it, and there are limited circumstances in which a judge may order an amount different than what the guidelines suggest.