CA DCSS Introduces Improvements to Guideline Calculator

By: Jorlinis Centeno, CA DCSS

The California Department of Child Support Services’ (CA DCSS) guideline calculator was established in 2008 to help family law professionals, courts and parents or guardians estimate the amount of child support that might be ordered by the court based on case-specific information. CA DCSS has recently finished a major overhaul of the guideline calculator based on the extensive tax changes passed by the Federal government in 2017. These required more attention than the normal changes made each year in response to ever-changing tax laws. In addition, as the Child Support Program has worked with the courts to move toward “reasonable orders,” ideas about percentages of income and what income is included are changing as well. CA DCSS’s Child Support Services Division (CSSD) made it their goal to improve the overall algorithm of the guideline calculator to provide more accurate and reliable estimates based on current law and practices.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that became law in December 2017 is the most sweeping tax overhaul that has occurred in the past three decades. The legislation made significant changes to personal taxes which have a direct impact on the amount of child support ordered pursuant to California’s statewide child support guidelines. It was incredibly important for CSSD to incorporate all the major changes produced in the legislation to provide those seeking estimates with a more accurate, updated calculator.

The new and improved guideline calculator allows CA DCSS to more accurately determine the net disposable income amounts for both parents based on the new tax laws. Coordinating the review and addition of all the new information and using it to accurately create new formulae to generate an estimate, was a massive and complicated undertaking. Selis Koker, Attorney III with CA DCSS, states that “without the hard work and collaboration of CSSD, the CA DCSS Technology Services Division, and the Office of Legal Services, these significant improvements would not have been possible.”

The Child Support guideline calculator is a valuable tool that will continue to evolve as new laws are put in place. CA DCSS will continue to update this tool to provide users with the most reliable and accurate estimated child support order information possible.