San Diego, CA asked in Child Support for California

Q: Are bonuses counted as income for child support calculations in CA?

My ex has been in the same industry and much the same job title for 15 years but claims he "can't predict" his quarterly or annual bonuses. In the past bonuses have nearly doubled his annual income. I have been unable to afford an attorney to fight him on this. Our orders are from WA state but he is moving here to CA and I wonder what I can expect if I seek help through the CA system.

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1 Lawyer Answer
Andy Chen
Andy Chen
  • Modesto, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Yes, California counts bonuses when determining child support. There is something called a "Smith-Ostler computation" or "Smith-Ostler Order" that covers bonuses. I have seen this referred to as an "Ostler-Smith" as well so you may want to google both terms.

It might depend on how much his bonus varies from year to year or quarter to quarter, but what I usually see is the court using the bonus amounts from prior years to predict roughly what the bonus this year will be. Obviously, bonuses are inherently unpredictable, but I highly doubt your case would be the first time the court had ever dealt with bonuses.

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