| Read Time: 5 minutes | Child Custody
why do i pay child support with 50/50 custody

In California, the best interests of the child are always paramount. The laws are set up to ensure that the child is financially, physically, and emotionally cared for by both parents. If you and your spouse have equal (50/50) custody of your child, you might assume that neither of you has to pay child support to the other.

It seems logical that if your custody is shared, you each cover costs for the child when the child is with you. However, in California, custody and child support are two separate components, and one parent may be required to pay child support to the other even in a 50/50 arrangement. This might leave you wondering, Why do I pay child support with 50/50 custody? 

We will explain what child support is, how it’s calculated, and why a higher-earning parent may still be responsible for payments when you have joint custody. A skilled child support attorney can help you estimate child support payments and modify existing child support orders.

What Is Child Support?

Child support is a monthly payment made by one or both parents for the support of the child. California law provides that the mother and father must share equal responsibility to support their child financially. Child support can cover the child’s living expenses, including food, shelter, education, and clothing. The payments aim to minimize differences in living standards and maintain continuity of care in the two separate households.

The child’s best interests are always central when determining child support payments. It can be easy to lose track of that greater purpose during a divorce. The parent paying more is often upset they have a greater financial responsibility, and the parent receiving the money often feels as though there is barely enough money to cover the costs. It is essential to remember that your child’s care is the main focus.

Child support payments last until the child reaches the age of 18 or is out of high school (up to 19 years old if still in high school).

How Child Support Is Calculated

The two main factors that determine child support calculations are the income of the parents and custody (time spent with the child). 


Both parents must submit an Income and Expense Declaration to the court. They must also provide proof of income. The sources of income and expenses the court will assess may include:

  • Salaries, wages, commissions, and bonuses;
  • Rents (usually from rental properties);
  • Dividends, stocks, and investments;
  • Self-employment earnings;
  • Retirement contributions;
  • Unemployment or disability insurance benefits;
  • Pensions or social security benefits;
  • Costs of raising children from another relationship; and 
  • Health premiums.

To assess income, the court can also look at the earning capacity of each parent. Earning capacity is what you could potentially make given your education, skills, age, health, and the current job market. 

The court considers these factors to reach a fair payment for both the parents and the child. Child support payments are not to punish either parent. They are meant to help ensure the care of the child. 

Time Spent with the Child

The other major component is the parent time each parent has with the child or the amount of time they each spend with the child. Typically, the parent who spends more time with the child will receive child support payments from the other parent. This is because the parent who has more time with the child ends up paying more of the childcare expenses. 

The percentage of time each parent spends with the child is based on the custody order that is in place. Calculating the custody percentage can be challenging. You may want to use an online tool or speak with an experienced attorney about calculating the correct number. 

California Formula for Child Support Calculations

California has a set formula for calculating child support payments. The formula is: CS = K[HN – (H%)(TN)]. The formula broken down is:

  • CS—the total child support amount,
  • K—the amount of both parents’ income that will be used for child support,
  • HN—the high-earning parent’s net monthly disposable income,
  • H%—the percentage of time the high-earning parent has with the child, and
  • TN—the total net monthly disposable income of both parents.

If there are multiple children, the formula multiplies the amount by another factor ranging from 1.6 for 2 children to 2.86 for 10 children. 

Other factors that may influence or alter child support payments include:

  • Number of minor children,
  • Special needs of the child,
  • Child care expenses,
  • Educational expenses, and
  • Medical insurance expenses.

As you can see, the formula is rather complicated. California offers an online child support calculator you can use to get an estimate of the payment amount. You can also work with an experienced child support lawyer to help estimate payments.

In most cases, the formula leads to a fair payment amount. The judge, however, has the final determination and may adjust it up or down if appropriate. Ultimately, the court is working to balance the child’s needs and the parents’ financial situations. 

If We Have 50/50 Custody, Who Pays Child Support?

Joint custody is preferred because it encourages the active participation of both parents in the child’s life. Many people with joint custody use a 50/50 parent-time schedule, sharing time equally. 

Nevertheless, 50/50 parent time does not mean child support payments will be equal or no payments will be involved. If both parents have practically the same income and expenses, it’s possible neither will have to pay child support. But most often, one parent will pay more than the other, even if custody is 50/50. 

This may lead you to wonder, Why do I pay child support with 50/50 custody? Remember, child support maintains the child’s well-being across both households. When divorce turns one household into two, it changes the way combined income is distributed in the family for the child’s care. If one parent has a significantly higher income than the other, the higher earning parent may be required to pitch in more to cover the child’s expenses. 

Can I Ask for a Modification to the Child Support Amount?

Either parent can ask the court to modify child support payments. You might want to ask for a modification if you experience a material change in circumstances. Requesting a change in the child support amount might be appropriate if: 

  • You were laid off from your job,
  • Your family size changes,
  • You or the other parent has a significant change in income,
  • You become disabled,
  • Your custody or visitation changes,
  • Your child has a change in needs (medical, educational, extracurricular), 
  • You go to jail or prison, or 
  • You are sent on active military duty.

To ask the court for a modification, you must submit a request to modify the existing order. As the requesting party, you are responsible for submitting documentation justifying the request. Or if you and the other parent can agree on the modification and new payment amount ahead of time, you can file a stipulation with the court. If the other party does not agree to the modification, you will both have to appear in court and have the judge decide. 

Call Pakpour Banks LLP Today with Your Child Support Questions

Pakpour Banks, LLP, has a strong focus on family law and helping families manage the challenging process of divorce. Consult our family law attorneys for help with child support orders or modification requests.

Our attorneys advocate for fair child support determinations. We want to help you resolve child support disputes quickly and protect you from difficult financial situations. We also always keep your child’s best interests in mind.

Our attorneys have experience handling child support cases throughout California. And with a small firm, we can dedicate our attention and time to each of our client’s individual needs. We respond to emails, text messages, and calls quickly because we understand the importance of the issues you are facing. Contact Pakpour Banks today with questions about child support or child custody.

Author Photo

Brian enters the family law profession with a refreshing approach to these proceedings: heal families; don’t destroy them. In some cases, this means the family is going to look different than it did before. In other cases, this means a new family is created where there was none before. Either way, individuals should leave family court knowing their voices were heard, and with healthy attitudes about themselves and those they love.

Read More Legal Blogs By Brian Pakpour

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