How Child Support Payments Are Calculated

Child Support Formulas and Calculations

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Courts use different formulas to determine the appropriate amount of child support payments. Some courts venture away from a set formula and impose another fair amount. Other courts may impose support obligations for a longer time period than required by law. Judges take many things into account when deciding what the appropriate amount of child support is but at the end of the day the most important factor is what's best for the child. It is the court's goal to ensure that your child's financial needs are being taken care of in a way that is also fair to both parents.

Here are some court considerations that impact child support calculations:

Parental Income

  • Income may be net or gross (Net income is considered take-home pay.)
  • Income may include lottery winnings, stock valuations, and future income.
  • Income may also include such benefits as the use of a company car or a military housing allowance

Child Support Formulas

Each state uses a different formula to determine child support obligations. States determine child support based on:

  • The income of the parent who is obligated to pay support, with consideration to the parent's number of children, or
  • The combined income of both parents, with consideration to both parents' number of children

States may venture away from the child support guidelines and impose a higher level of support for:

  • Increased medical or educational expenses
  • Special-needs children, who may incur additional expenses, such as speech therapy or expensive prescription medication
  • Recreational activities, such as a sports camps, after-school activities, etc.

States may reduce child support obligations for the following reasons:

  • A non-custodial parent's duty to support a new spouse and/or child
  • Child's new-found income, such as a large inheritance
  • Joint custody arrangements

How the Cost of College Impacts Child Support

In most states, a child support obligation ends when a child reaches the age of maturity, which is usually 18, but is age 21 in some states. The obligation to support a child in college depends on the state that orders the support. Some states may require child support through a certain age. The rationale may be that the parents would have supported the child through college, anyway, had they remained together.

Lump-Sum Child Support Obligation vs. Per Child

If a parent is obligated to pay child support until age 18, and that child support order covers multiple children receiving a lump-sum amount every month (such as $300 per month), the parent must continue to pay that amount until the youngest child reaches age 18. However, if the support order is a certain amount per child, a parent may reduce the per-child amount as each child reaches age 18. It's important that you fully understand the type of child support payments the court has prescribed to you.

Your lawyer should be able to answer all of your questions.

To learn more about child support payments and obligations in your jurisdiction, please visit your state's family court website.