Not everyone is entitled to child support. Generally, you will be eligible if the court awards you full or partial custody of the child or children. Once the court determines you are eligible, it will calculate the appropriate amount of child support using state criteria. Read on to learn more about how the amount of child support is calculated.
Factors Considered When Calculating Child Support
Each state has its own child support regulations. To be certain which regulations apply to your case, visit Findlaw's State Child Support Guidelines. Also, keep in mind that each judge or commissioner will have his or her own methods and interpretations of these guidelines, so it’s important to prepare your case carefully and consult with an experienced family law attorney. If you can't afford an attorney, look for the legal aid office in your county of residence or contact your state's public assistance department.
When calculating child support, most states consider the following:
However, your state may consider additional criteria. For example, in California the courts also consider the costs of parents' union dues, retirement contributions, and travel for visitation.
Determining Parents' Income and Ability to Pay
Child support payments are determined primarily by the parents' incomes. Courts carefully consider every potential source of income from both parents, regardless of the final custody arrangement. You should make a detailed list of all of your sources of income and expenses, and if you are unsure whether a particular source will be included in the court's calculation, check your specific state laws and consult with your attorney.
Additionally, the court often factors the number of children into the calculation, so the parent paying child support will pay more for each additional child. For instance, the Alaska Court System has posted an example of how these calculations are made.
Multiplying the Income by the Total Amount of Custody Time
Once a court has determined the income of both parents, it multiplies the amount of custody time the child spends with a parent by how much the parties earn. State courts use different calculation methods depending upon the nature of the custody arrangement, so this process can be quite complicated. The Maryland Department of Human Resources, for example, provides a spreadsheet that automatically calculates the probable total child support when income and custody information are entered. Make certain to seek experienced legal assistance if you have any questions.
Enforcement of the Child Support Award
Unfortunately, court-awarded child support is not always paid on time, and sometimes isn’t paid at all. If you need a child support order enforced, you can contact the National Child Support Enforcement Association or the office of child support enforcement in your state. The federal government pursues the most chronic and egregious child support evaders under the Child Support Recovery Act (1992) and the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act (1998). Under these laws, it is illegal for a parent owing court-ordered child support to willfully fail to pay, and offenders can be convicted of a felony and face fines and imprisonment.
Talk to an Attorney to Have Your Child Support Questions Answered
As you can see, there are many factors that go into child support determinations, which are made at the discretion of the court. Because there are many factors considered, you actually could have several different ways to argue for a fair award. It's best to contact an experienced child support attorney who understands how child support is determined and can advocate on your behalf.