Stipulated Child Support in California

In most California child support cases, the amount of support ordered aligns with the amount calculated by Dissomaster or other software following the Guideline formula. However, parties are free to settle on a different amount of child support and formalize that agreement in a stipulation to establish child support.

If the parties choose to stipulate to a different amount of child support there are some safeguards that allow the recipient to seek Guideline child support in the future.

Can the parties stipulate a different amount of support?

Yes. The parties may stipulate to a child support amount that is lower than Guideline child support, subject to the court’s approval.  

What should the parties declare in the stipulation?

The parties should declare the following in order for the court to approve the stipulated agreement:

  • They are fully informed of their rights concerning child support
  • They agree to the order without coercion or duress
  • The agreement is in the children’s best interests.
  • The children’s needs will be adequately met by the stipulated amount; and
  • The right to support has not been assigned to the county, and no application for public assistance is pending.

Who else should sign the stipulation agreement?

The local child support agency also has to sign when the agency is providing child support enforcement services. The child support agency cannot sign a stipulated agreement ordering an amount below the guideline amount if the children are receiving CalWORKS benefits, if there is a pending application for public assistance, or if the parent receiving support has not consented to the order. The stipulated agreement is not valid absent signature from the local child support agency. (See Family Code 4065(c)).

What information should the court provide if it approves a stipulation agreement?

When a court approves a stipulation agreement that orders child support in an amount different from the guideline formula, the court must include, on the record, the following information:        

  • The amount of support that would have been ordered under the guideline formula.
  • The reasons the amount of support ordered differs from the guideline formula amount.
  • The reasons the amount of support ordered is consistent with the best interests of the children.

Can The Recipient Change Their Mind and Seek Guideline Child Support Later?

If the parties stipulate to an amount of child support that is below that calculated using the Guideline formula, the recipient spouse can change their mind and seek Guideline child support later on. To modify a stipulated child support order that established support below Guideline support, the party does NOT have to show changed circumstances. For example if the parties file for dissolution of marriage in Modesto and stipulate to $1,000 per month child support, even though Guideline child support is $2,000, the recipient parent can always seek modification of the child support order to $2,000 without showing a change in circumstances.

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