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How Child Support Obligations Are Determined

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If you are divorcing and you have a minor child, you can rest assured that there will very likely be child support ordered by the family court judge. Both you and your spouse can, and should, decide on child custody, debt and property division, and many other potentially contentious issues outside of court if possible, but not child support. Many issues surrounding divorce can be decided in advance, but the amount of child support that a parent is ordered to pay is determined by federal law. You can learn more about how the amount is determined so that you will know what to expect.

The Median Income of Your State

The family courts and the federal government feel that the health and welfare of minor children in a divorce situation should be a high priority, so efforts to standardize the amount of child support has resulted in rules and guidelines that must be followed. In general, the amounts for child support are based on your particular state's median income, so the amounts of support ordered vary depending on your state of residence.

You can access a calculator that can show you, by state, approximately what you can expect to pay for child support based on your income. This calculator can only show a rough estimate, however, since there are numerous off-setting factors that should be taken into consideration. For example, if the custody type is 50/50, the amount of support would be different than if one parent had primary physical custody of the child.

Other Factors for Child Support

Other factors to consider include:

How income is determined. States vary in how they look at your income, with some using your net and some using your gross income for child support purposes. Those who are self-employed or seasonal may have special provisions. Most often, it is the high earner of the two parents who is expected to pick up the tab for the higher percentage of financial support for the child.

Standing child support orders. If there is a child support order already in place, the amount of that child support obligation may be used to reduce the available income for determining the amount of the new obligation. It should be noted that for this provision to apply, the child support must be a court-ordered obligation, not a voluntary contribution. Additionally, the support payments for the previous order must be up to date.

Childcare Expenses. When it comes to entering your income into the calculator, you can deduct any childcare or babysitting expenses that you are responsible for paying off of the top of your income, just as the family court judge will.

Health care premiums. This is an important and separately addressed provision in the divorce decree. The parent responsible for paying for the minor child's health care premiums will be designated and that parent may deduct that expense from their income for child support payment purposes.

To learn more about how child support payments are determined, speak with your divorce attorney.