Treatment of Bonus, Commission, and Overtime Income in the Calculation of Child and Spousal Support

When determining the correct amount of spousal and child support in California the court considers many factors, including irregular and unpredictable income. In most cases when the supporting or supported person receives income over their base salary the court includes in its order a calculation which indicates how much the support payment will be. A computer program is used which calculates the “guideline” support amount. In child support cases, guideline support is mandated, unless a specific exception is allowed. In spousal support cases the court is not dependent on the computer generated numbers.

For example:

1. Monthly Overtime

Mom is a teacher earning $5,000 per month. (All numbers are gross, as that is what the court uses.) Dad is a firefighter and earns a base salary of $7,500 per month and monthly overtime which ranges from $1,200 to $3,000. There are two children under the age of eighteen who spend half their time with each parent per court order. We will assume these parties were never married and therefore no spousal support is due.

For purposes of this example we are not considering the other factors that the court will include in its analysis, such as medical insurance, mortgage interest, property taxes, day care costs, and retirement contributions.

Dad will pay a base amount of support of $177 per month. In addition, he will pay a percentage of his overtime wages. That percentage will be approximately 7-8% of his gross overtime.

2. Annual Bonus

Wife and Husband are divorcing. They were married for twenty years. They do not have minor children. Wife is a medical assistant earning $3,500 per month. Husband is a stockbroker. He earns $20,000 per month as his base salary, plus a year-end bonus of $60,000.

The court has great discretion in determining the amount of spousal support. Husband will pay base spousal support each month in the amount the court determines is appropriate or, in the event of a settlement, the amount the parties agree to. In addition to the base support, the husband will pay a fixed percentage of the year-end bonus he receives.