How Much is Child Support?

Every child has a legal right to be financially supported by both parents, regardless of whether the parents were ever married or if one parent doesn't take an active role in raising the child. When parents have ended a relationship and don't live together, one parent (typically, the parent who has primary physical custody of a child) receives child support from the non-custodial parent.

Legal guidelines in each state help establish the amount of child support that must be paid by one parent to the other. This article provides a basic overview of child support law to help give you an idea of how much support child support you will pay.

How Much is Child Support: State Child Support Guidelines

Specific child support guidelines vary from state to state, but they are all generally based on the parents' incomes, living expenses, and the needs of the children. Often, the guidelines calculate the amount of child support as a percentage of the paying parent's income that increases with the number of children being supported. In some instances, the child support award can vary from the guidelines, if there are good reasons.

Judges will often review a financial statement completed by each parent that lists all sources and amounts of income and expenses before reaching a final figure for child support payments. This worksheet can help parents gather important information regarding their financial situations.

Online child support calculators offer an estimate of what parents may pay in child support, but you are cautioned not to rely on these calculators. Judges make the final determination of support and may interpret facts differently than parents, even if they use the same formula as the online calculator.

Calculating Child Support: Determining Parents' Income

Regardless of the state, a final child support award based on the guidelines is "income driven." That means how much child support you will pay is determined primarily by the income of both parties. It's therefore crucial that parents understand what funds can be considered "income" under the child support guidelines and which are excluded from that definition.

Generally, when determining parents’ income for the purpose of child support, courts look not only at salary and wages but also other sources of money, including the following:

  • Government benefits;
  • Pensions;
  • Gifts and prizes;
  • Annuities; and
  • Disbursements from trusts or estates.

College Expenses and Other Child Support Considerations

State guidelines and income determinations are critical to setting child support amounts, but they are not the only considerations that factor into the decision. Depending on the state and the unique circumstances of the case, a judge may evaluate other factors and order a child support amount that differs from the guidelines if doing so would be fair to the parents and in the best interests of the child. Some additional issues that may affect the amount of child support include the following:

How Much is Child Support for You? Find Out with an Attorney's Help

Calculating child support payments is tricky. Parents, whether or not they have physical custody of their child(ren), want to make sure their kids are well taken-care of; but no parent wants to go broke in the process. Let a family law attorney licensed in your state help you determine what's best for your children while keeping in mind your own financial needs.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified child support attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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