The calculation of child support is an important part of any divorce settlement. Determining the amount of financial support a parent will be required to pay can be a complex process involving formulas that vary by state pursuant to the Child Support Enforcement Act. Discussed below are some of the factors a court may consider when calculating the amount of child support owed in a divorce matter.
Income of the Parents
Income is the biggest factor in determining a child support award. Divorcing spouses must provide financial statements regarding their monthly income and expenses to allow the court to gain a complete financial picture of the family. An individual’s net income is their gross income from all sources minus any mandatory deductions, such as income taxes, Social Security taxes, health insurance premiums, and union dues. Most states will view child support payments as a high priority payment taking precedence over other deductions, such as loan payments or wage attachments, which are not deducted for purposes of determining gross income.
States that follow the income shares model use the net income of both parents and the percentage each parent contributes to the total net income, along with the expected costs of raising the children to determine the amount each parent would owe.
Under the percentage of the income model, the court will base the payment on a specific percentage of the non-custodial parent’s gross or net income, along with the number of dependent children. The income of the custodial parent is not a factor. The percentage used may vary depending on the total amount of income.
Other states use the Melson formula, which is similar to the income shares model but allows for higher child support payments as one or both parents increase their income while considering a standard of living adjustment for each child.
Specific Needs for Each Child
All states will consider the unique needs of each child in the determination of child support. When a child has special medical or educational needs, child support may be adjusted accordingly. The costs of health insurance, day care, and education may all factor into the amount of child support awarded to the custodial parent.
Even when the state sets forth a standard formula for the calculation of child support, many states give the courts discretion to look at other factors when determining child support. Discretionary factors can include the special needs of the child, the standard of living the child has been accustomed to, the amount of time the child spends with the non-custodial parent, whether an individual is paying child support for two or more families, the needs and income of the custodial parent, and any other factors affecting the ability of the non-custodial parent to pay.
The best way to determine the amount of child support that will be required by your state is to consult with an experienced child support lawyer who is familiar with state child support formulas and the unique factors associated with your case.
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