How Do You Calculate Child Support for High Income Earners?

Learn the rules for extraordinarily high income earners and deviation from child support

How does the court calculate child support for high income earners?

What qualifies as "extraordinarily high income?"

Family Code 4057 is the code section that states the rule for extraordinarily high-income and child support for such high-income earners. The section addresses the high-income earner's ability to deviate from "guideline" child support.

Section 4057(a) starts with, "The amount of child support established by the formula provided in subdivision (a) of Section 4055 is presumed to be the correct amount of child support to be ordered…" It then provides one of its exceptions in subsection (a)(3) for the following situation; "The parent being ordered to pay child support has an extraordinarily high income and the amount determined under the formula would exceed the needs of the children."

Family Code 4057 is not very helpful. It states a general rule. How do courts actually apply the rule for those who earn an extraordinarily high income?

Before we get into the article, here is a short video you will enjoy.

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We hope you enjoy this video on calculating child support for high income earners. For those who need an accessible transcript of the video, click here: Transcript of video.

The extraordinarily high-income earner has the burden of proof

If you are the extraordinarily high-income earner, step one is requesting a deviation from guideline child support. This starts when you file a declaration with the court and prove the following:

  1. The extent of your income,
  2. Why your income falls into the extraordinarily high-income earner category,
  3. What child support should be if the court deviated from the guideline amount,
  4. Why the court's order for a non-guideline child support order will still meet the child or children's needs, and
  5. Why the court's order for a non-guideline, child support order is in the child or children's best interest.

The above is the starting point. There is factual detail the high-income earner should state in his or her declaration. His or her attorney should also file a memorandum that sets forth both the statutory (code) law and California case law that supports his or her position for reduced child support.

The extraordinarily high income earner must "rebut" the presumption of guideline child support

The party ordered to pay guideline support must rebut the presumption that the guideline amount is the correct amount of child support. To rebut the presumption means to provide evidence to persuade the court that it should not apply the guideline formula.

What is extraordinarily high income?

The law does not apply a specific test to determine whether a party is an extraordinarily high earner. Instead, the court must consider the geographical area of the state in which the payer lives.

Yes, it is true. "Where" you and the child live makes a difference. Los Angeles and San Francisco are different from Bakersfield and Stockton.

The main reason is a child or children have the right to share in the wealthy parent's lifestyle and standard of living. Therefore, the fact the guideline child support may exceed the needs of the child or children is not, by itself, always enough. The issue is how much it exceeds those needs.

How do you oppose a request by an extraordinarily high-income earner to deviate from child support?

If you are the parent who opposes the request to deviate, your argument should hit each of the following points. You should also have facts to back up everything you declare to the court. Finally, you must set forth the law that supports your position.

  1. The other parent's income is not enough to quality for extraordinarily high-income status,
  2. Guideline child support does not exceed each child's needs,
  3. A deviation will not meet each child's needs and is not in their best interest.

Quotes from specific cases on extraordinarily high-income earners and deviation

Here are some quotes from two California appellate courts on the subject of deviation due to extraordinarily high income. We believe you will find this helpful.

The court also found that there was a sufficient change in circumstances to warrant consideration of John's RFO; that John was an extraordinarily high earner; and that the children's needs can be met if the court caps John's income, for support purposes, at $2 million per year. It found that John had established that support at $2 million per year (or $24,933.33 per month) would exceed the "needs of the children" and, to ameliorate fluctuation and potential manipulation by John, imposed a claw-back and claw-forward rule, whereby annual income in excess of $2 million would carry forward and/or back and apply to past and future years in which income was below $2 million.

- Marriage of Macilwaine (2018) 26 Cal.App.5th 514

What constitutes extraordinarily high income also may vary from one geographical area of the state to another…As the trial court correctly observed in this case: "The legislature did not define the term extraordinarily high income, leaving that to the discretion of the trial court." In exercising that discretion, however, the trial court must at least approximate the point at which the guideline support obligation due from a high earner would exceed the children's needs.

- Marriage of Cheriton (2001) 92 Cal.App. 4th 269

Are you the high income earner who wants to reduce child support or defending against one?

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