The federal government mandates child support guidelines to be used by the states throughout the nation in order to establish consistency and predictability, but particular guidelines still vary by state.
When Determining Child Support the Court will Consider a Number of Factors:
- Eligible Deductions (if applicable)
- Childcare Expenses
- Healthcare Expenses
- Other Expenses (if applicable)
- Shared Custody/Visitation
Most of the guidelines for determining child support take into consideration the income of both parents. Some states base their calculations on the gross income and others will use the net income. The percentage of the couple’s combined income that each parent contributes towards childcare and expenses helps the court determine the amount each will be obligated to pay in child support.
In some cases, a parent may already be providing child support or spousal support from a previous court order. In this situation, the parent with previous obligations will typically be allowed to deduct that amount from their income for the purposes of child support obligation calculations. Generally speaking, there are two requirements to qualify for this type of deduction: 1) support payments must be court ordered and 2) the parent must actually be making the payments in accordance with the existing court order. A parent is not allowed to make a deduction from their income for the support of a subsequent spouse or child.
If you have childcare expenses, discuss the situation with your child support attorney as states will usually take into consideration the amount a parent or parents must spend on childcare in order to fulfill work responsibilities or to seek employment. In some states, the court will adjust the amount that is allowed for this expense to account for the federal dependent care exemption on federal income taxes. For those who live in a state that offers a dependent care exemption on state income taxes, the expense can also be adjusted to reflect this.
In the child support order, the court will make it clear who is to pay for the children’s health insurance. The amount that is spent on health insurance is added to the basic child support order and credited to the parent who pays it. There are many states that follow guidelines calling for a specific amount of additional support to cover out of pocket expenses related to health care.
The basic support order may be increased in order to accommodate other unusual expenses that are to be expected in a situation such as special education or medical needs for gifted or special needs children, out of the ordinary visitation expenses, etc. These expenses are typically divided between the parents in proportion to their relative incomes. Once this is complete, the non-custodial parent would then receive a credit for the amount of the expense that the custodial parent is responsible for covering.
A lot of states utilize guidelines that attempt to account for the amount of time children spend with each of their parents when they are determining the amount of a child support award. The more time that the child or children spend with their non-custodial parent, the more expenses that parent should incur in support of the children. In cases where the parents are sharing custody or where extensive visitation is the norm, the child support awarded will usually be less than in situations where there is sole custody and/or minimal visitation.
While child support guidelines are in use and often provide a fair amount of child support, it is possible to obtain an award that is higher or lower than the amount determined by the guidelines with a judicial determination of extenuating factors requiring a deviation. If you are worried about how your child support award will be determined or if you need assistance preparing or your child support hearing, please get in touch with one of the experienced divorce and child support attorneys at Aronow Law PC today.