The amount of child support money varies from one state to the other. Each state has child support guidelines that judges follow when determining the amount of child support payments the other parent should receive to support their kids.
However, all states consider the parent’s income and the number of children in the family. Although child support can’t take the whole amount of your earnings, the courts can have deducted a massive amount from your paycheck.
In most cases, child support is deducted monthly, alongside other deductions such as taxes, healthcare premiums, and other benefits. The formula used to calculate child support can be difficult to comprehend. However, either parent can use an online calculator to estimate the monthly child support payments that should be due to one parent or another.
Additionally, a significant number of states consider the amount of time each parent spends with children. Normally, the parent who spends the most time with their children is called the custodial parent. The parent with the least amount of time is referred to as the non-custodial parent. In many cases, the time spent with the kids is really where the child is spending their sleeping hours instead of their most valuable time alive which would be their waking hours. This is just one small problem with our family court system.
The most crucial factor when determining child support is the parent’s disposable income. Courts may consider both parents’ combined income, while others may only focus on the noncustodial parent’s monthly income.
Factors that Determine the Amount of Child Support Payments
Here are some factors that family courts consider when determining the amount of child support money to pay. Consider discussing your personal situation, and the laws of your state in particular with a local attorney who knows the family court system you’ll be getting your divorce in. For a reasonable cost, you could save thousands of dollars over the next 18 (or so) years.
Number of Kids in the Family
The number of children you and your ex have together play a vital role when determining the amount of child support you may have to pay or receive. The more children you have, the more amount of money you are likely to pay. If your children are a bit younger, child support obligations might go up. Therefore, if you have two or more children, the amount of money withheld for child support will be higher than a parent with just one child.
The average percentages of child support in many states are as follows: 17% for one kid, 25% for two kids, and 29% percent for three children. These percentages act as a guideline. A family court judge can decide to review your child support costs downwards or upwards depending on your financial circumstances, but also weigh the circumstances of your kids and the needs of the custodial parent.
If a parent already has children from a previous marriage there could be a multi-family adjustment to their monthly resources.
Determining Earning Capacity & Income Caps
Parental income determines the amount of money to pay as child support. A parents’ earning capacity play a vital role in determining the amount of money to pay.
Earning capacity helps courts to estimate the amount of money a parent could potentially make in the future. This helps determine the total amount of money parents could earn in the future. Courts look at employment history, level of education, the employment growth rate in the respective field, and past and current salaries to determine “earning capacity”. So non-custodial payor parents who decide to quit their job aren’t really lucky ducks since more than likely they are still going to have “earning capacity” and will be on the hook to still contribute financially to raising their kids.
Typically, an income tax return from each parent can substantiate a true reflection of income and expenses. If a parent decides to falsify this document just to pay less for child support purposes or get a greater share of support from their ex, then they could also be facing tax evasion or tax fraud charges by the IRS, too!
The Other Parents Gross Monthly Income Before Any Deduction
Courts excise fairness during the calculation of child support. A family court can’t demand a basic support obligation that is higher than what your former spouse can afford using all their financial resources.
Your former spouse monthly income is a summation of all their financial sources, including:
- Unemployment benefits
- Social security benefits
- Lottery winnings
- Disability benefits (disability award)
- Employment salary
- Royalty Income
- Dependency benefit of Social Security Income
- Worker’s compensation benefits
- Union dues
- Public Assistance
- Rental income
However, understand that self-employment income may be a bit different as there are additional expenses necessary to keep a business afloat. Without paying those expenses (as one spouse may disagree with) a business could collapse and render a once valid earning capacity null.
Child Custody Arrangements
The amount of time each parent spends with a child plays a significant role when determining child support money. It is prudent to note that child support may be required even if you have shared custody arrangements. Under some states’ shared custody arrangements, the parent with a higher salary is automatically deemed the noncustodial parent regardless of the time they spend with the child.
In others, the actual time a child is with a parent will be used to determine non-custodial versus custodial. And, yet again, as is the case in my state, child custody determines the custodial parent as the one where the child “sleeps more often” during a year.
However, a judge will carefully screen each case rather than use a universal solution to solve all issues.
How is a Basic Support Obligation Calculated?
In the United States, both parents need to bear the financial burden of raising their children. Non-custodial parents are required to remit child support to the custodial parent. Child support is made up of:
- Table amount, commonly known as a basic monthly amount
- Additional amount for miscellaneous expenses is called extraordinary (or variable) expenses
Numerous states have the child support table amount that guides parents on monthly amounts to pay. The amount should be enough to offset costs of food, clothes, medical expenses, and school supplies. The money meant for basic necessities is called table amount.
The table amount to be paid is determined by the non-custodial parent’s gross income and the number of children they have to support. The gross annual income is money earned in a year before paying income tax and other monthly deductions to your paycheck.
Besides paying the table amount, a parent may be required to help pay for other special expenses. These expenses are known as extraordinary, variable, or special expenses. Examples of special expenses are:
- Child care costs include nannies’ costs, daycare, and babysitter services, especially if the custodial parent’s work is demanding.
- Child health care expenses that aren’t covered by health insurance policy include prescriptions, counseling, eyeglasses, orthodontics, and hearing aid. Normally this expense would include health insurance premiums as well.
- Reasonable educational expenses include private school and private tutors fees.
Extra expenses are extraordinary if they are reasonable and necessary. Necessary means that the cost is for the child’s best interest, while reasonable means that the parent to pay can afford it.
In most instances, both parents are expected to meet the child’s extraordinary expenses. They roughly contribute an equal amount of money in addition to the basic child support obligation.
What Can Make A Family Court Judge Set an Amount Above or Below the Child Support Guideline Amount
The Standard Guideline Amount is More Than a Parent Can Afford
The judge may lower the amount of the child support calculator exceeds what non-custodial parents can afford. If a parent earns little money, has lost a job, or has other expenses that make it daunting to pay the guideline amount, a judge may order a lower pay. However, a judge may order the noncustodial parent to return to court after several months to review whether their earnings have changed.
Noncustodial Parent Has a Greater Annual Income
If the paying parent can afford more than the guideline amount, the court may order a higher amount than the child support formula called for initially. A higher amount ensures that a child’s standard of living reflects that of their parents.
A Disabled Child Has Special Needs
A family court can order a higher child support than the guideline amount if a child has special needs or needs or interests. Kids with special medical needs require enough money to cater to their hospital visits, special educational and infrastructure needs.
Also, suppose a child has special interests such as a passion for sporting activities or music. In that case, the dependent parent can request the court to order an additional amount to pay for costs associated with these activities.
Final Notes About Child Support
In every case, there are special circumstances for both the custodial parent and the non-custodial parent. Who pays, and who receives doesn’t infringe on the other parental rights you have or any physical responsibility you have for your kids.
The non-custodial parent might receive benefits through special debit cards or even the most common method of direct deposit to their everyday checking or savings account from child support “payment central”. Your state will have a specific method of disbursement you will have to follow.