How Is the Amount of Child Support Determined?

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Many different factors go into determining the amount of child support that is owed after a divorce. Every state has its own formula for calculating the amount that the paying parent will owe to the receiving parent. The biggest factor for determining child support is the income of the child’s parents.


Factors Taken Into Consideration

Child support is all about making sure that a child facing the divorce of their parents has the least disruption possible in their lives. Divorce is difficult for everyone involved, but it is often the children that suffer the most. Money from child support helps to ensure that there is not a big contrast in the life of the child when switching from one parent’s home to the home of the other.

Some of the factors that may be taken into consideration when determining the amount of child support are:

  • The income of the paying parent
  • The income of the receiving parent
  • Division of time spent with both parents
  • Who pays for health insurance
  • Who pays any daycare and educational costs
  • Age of the children
  • How many children are involved
  • If either parent has a new partner with whom they share expenses
  • Whether either parent pays or receives child support or alimony from a prior marriage

Important Things to Remember

You have to remember that every state has different rules that determine how child support is calculated. When determining income, some states will use gross income, while others use net income. Some will take bonuses and overtime into consideration when determining income, while others ignore these extras. A parents’ investment income will be taken into account in some states and ignored in others.

There are child support calculators available online that are state-specific. In cut and dry cases, these calculators can do a fairly good job of giving you a rough estimate of what your child support payments are going to be. 

However, if any special considerations need to be taken into account when determining child support in your case, then these amounts can become wildly inaccurate. Sometimes, child support calculations are very complex and better left in a divorce lawyer’s experienced hands than relying on what is essentially an online toy.

Exceptions to the Rules

As mentioned, there are times when the standard rules for determining a child support amount don’t apply. If you feel that yours is a special case and there are things that should be taken into consideration that are not covered under the standard structure for determining the amount of your support, you can petition the judge to make an exception.

Some of the reasons a judge might consider a deviation from the state guidelines for child support are:

  • A paying parent with a very high income
  • A paying parent with a very low income
  • A paying parent who is earning below their potential
  • A child who requires extra expenses

A Paying Parent With a Very High Income

If the paying parent has an exceptionally high income, it can lead to an increase in the amount they pay. Or a decrease. It depends on just how much the parent can afford to pay and how much is needed to cover the child’s expenses. 

Since child support is determined before alimony, it might not make too much of a difference to the overall payment made by the paying parent either way. If the payment amount for child support is lowered, it may mean a raise to alimony payments, while if child support is raised, then alimony payments could be lowered.

A Paying Parent With a Very Low Income

If the paying parent is not able to afford the amount determined, as in the case of a lost job, the amount owed can be lowered.

A Paying Parent is Earning Below Their Potential

Sometimes the paying parent is capable of earning more but takes a lower-paying job than their skill-set and education suggest they should be working. If the judge believes that this is done deliberately they may adjust the payment amount to reflect the salary that the paying parent would be making in the vocation for which they are properly suited.

A Child Has Extra Expenses

Many things can lead to a child requiring extra financial support. Physical or mental disabilities can lead to much higher costs for daily life and education than that of a child without special needs. Additionally, if a child has an interest in extracurricular activities that require additional financial support, the amount the paying parent must give could be raised.



Welcome to the Night Helper Blog. The Night Helper Blog was created in 2008. Since then we have been blessed to partner with many well-known Brands like Best Buy, Fisher Price, Toys "R" US., Hasbro, Disney, Teleflora, ClearCorrect, Radio Shack, VTech, KIA Motor, MAZDA and many other great brands. We have three awesome children, plus four adorable very active grandkids. From time to time they too are contributors to the Night Helper Blog. We enjoy reading, listening to music, entertaining, travel, movies, and of course blogging.

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