Child Support Calculators

One of the issues arising from the media circus Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes divorce is child custody of their six year old daughter Suri. How would that be worked out among a Hollywood power couple with multiple homes and more money than…er…Scientology?

All 50 states have some variant to how much child support payment is due, based on several factors unique to that state’s family law statutes. These are referred to as child support calculators. For our example, since the couple has primary residences in California and New York, we’ll look at those two states. It doesn’t mean people like Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes will have things settled this way exactly…I mean the rest of us.


The California Guideline Child Support Calculator is based on California Child Support Guidelines and can be used to estimate the amount of child support that may be ordered in a divorce case. In California, The Court Commissioner or Family Law Judge has the final authority to determine the amount of a child support to be paid. This calculator provides only an estimate and is not always a guarantee of the amount of child support that will be ordered by the judge. Other factors may affect the amount of child support awarded.

In the Federal Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, Public Law 109-171, all states were instructed to impose a $25 Annual Service Fee to non-Welfare families (families that never claimed Welfare) who are paid out, or disbursed, $500 or more during the federal fiscal year. The mandate went into effect January 1, 2008. As of October 1, 2010, the state will no longer pay the fee on behalf of families. Beginning October 1, 2011, and every October 1 thereafter, the Department of Child Support Services will assess the $25 annual service fee to all never-assisted cases that meet the criteria for assessment. The service fee will be withheld from the never-assisted custodial party’s (NCP) next child support payment or payments until the $25 is fully recovered. Although the first disbursement or disbursements paid to the custodial party on or after October 1 will be reduced by $25, the NCP will get full credit for the amount of the collection received.

Sound confusing? Fortunately, the state of California has a user guide for its child support calculator, which can be found online at the state’s website. California law requires courts to adhere to statewide uniform guidelines in setting child support orders. The Payment Estimator or child support calculator applies the statewide uniform guideline calculation to the information that you enter into the blank fields.


The Child Support Standards Chart can be used to determine an approximate annual child support obligation. The 2012 poverty income guideline amount for a single person as reported by the United States Department of Health and Human Services is $11,170 and the 2012 self-support reserve is $15,080. Where the total combined parental income of both parents exceeds the combined parental income amount ($136,000 as of January 31, 2012) the law permits, but does not require, the use of the Child Support Percentages in calculating the child support obligation on the income higher than that. The combined parental income amount will be adjusted every two years (effective January 31st for applicable years) based on the average annual percent changes to the federal Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index for Urban Consumers.

In New York, The child support percentage is fixed at:

a)17% of the combined parental income for one child;

  1. 25% of the combined parental income for two children;
  2. 29% of the combined parental income for three children;
  3. 31% of the combined parental income for four children; and
  4. no less than 35% of the combined parental income for five or more children.

Where the combined parental income exceeds $80,000 per year, the court has discretion to depart from the child support percentages as to those portions of income in excess of $80,000.00.

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