20 years ago child and spousal support were sorted out by only a judge. Today, these are handled by a program called Dissomaster.
In the bad old days (over 20 years ago), divorcing couples trying to sort out child and spousal support were at the mercy of whatever judge got assigned to their case. It was in many ways a decision-making process based on whimsey and caprice.
Getting divorced in California today is very different, with support orders generally dominated by a single computer program called Dissomaster. (There are other computer programs, but Dissomaster has cornered the market in most divorce courts.)
The law provides a complicated, non-linear formula for calculating child support, and then requires that judges run the formula with the parties’ net after-tax incomes—which the court has to calculate. If you even understood that last sentence, you can correctly assume that judges cannot, and will not, do all that.
Happily for the judges, Dissomaster does all that for them.
Like any computer program, it’s garbage-in, garbage-out, but if parents can agree on what to input into the computer, Dissomaster can quite readily tell them what support orders are going to look like. The program asks for tax data that you may have to find in your records, but in most cases all you need are each parent’s gross income and the percentage of time each child spends with each parent.
That’s the basics. Like anything, the devil is in the details, but that will get you in the ballpark.
In most California counties, Dissomaster can also calculate spousal support (using a formula that varies from county to county).
However, unlike child support which must generally conform to Dissomaster, the spousal support number in Dissomaster is used only for temporary orders and, at trial, as a discretionary, advisory number.
How do you get the Dissomaster program? You can do like lawyers do and pay a lot of money for it. You can find hacker versions on line, but those can be very misleading. The safest bet is to consult an attorney to give you some reliable guidance.
If you are getting divorced with children in California, you are very likely to find yourself looking at Dissomaster, a word divorcing couples love to hate. But despite its faults, it’s better than whimsey and caprice.