Parents divorce for a variety of different reasons. When they do, the welfare of any child involved is of the utmost importance to the judge presiding over their divorce proceeding. Typically, the party who receives physical custody of the couple’s children (the custodial parent) is entitled to receive monthly child support payments from the non-custodial parent.
Child support is periodic payments made by a non-custodial parent to a custodial parent for the support of a biological or adoptive child. Child support not only covers a child’s bare necessities, such as food, clothing, and shelter, but also a broad range of expenses which can include, entertainment, medical care, and the cost of extracurricular activities.
In addition to your basic child support obligation, you may also be required to pay a percentage of the child’s daycare expenses and educational expenses. Furthermore, child support usually includes cash payments and health insurance costs not covered by insurance.
How child support is calculated
There are standard guidelines used by the court to determine the child support a non-custodial parent would pay to a custodial parent.
This is often based on the noncustodial parent’s adjusted income and the number of children involved. For example, you may be required to pay 17% of your adjusted income for one child; 25% for two; 29% for 3, etc.
The actual amount of child support to be paid monthly is calculated differently in each state, but will typically be based on a variety of factors, including:
- The number of children involved in the case
- The incomes of both the custodial and noncustodial parents
- The cost of family health insurance
- The amount of pre-existing child support being paid by the noncustodial parent for children from a previous marriage
- The amount of alimony being paid by the noncustodial parent to a spouse from a previous marriage.
Child support calculators
Because state child support guidelines are usually too complex to calculate mathematically by hand, most judges and lawyers have special software called child support calculators that they use to calculate child support obligations.
You can work with a lawyer or mediator, or use one of the many state-specific child support calculators that are available online to get a ballpark idea of your state’s guidelines for child support, or to simply work out what you think is fair. Then, if you and your co-parent can come to a child support agreement on your own, you can have the court approve it and enter it as an order.
Modifying child support
The courts understand that life is ever-changing, so if the child support order that was entered in your case is no longer appropriate for your child and for your situation, it can sometimes be changed.
Whether you are receiving or paying child support, if you can show that there has been a substantial change in your circumstances, that the facts of your case have changed substantially since the last court order, and that it would be in the best interest of your child for the order to be changed, you may be able to modify your child support order.