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How Is Child Support Calculated

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Every state handles income for calculating child support a little differently. Generally speaking, child support is calculated based on both parents’ income. Along with income, the following factors also play a role in determining child support

  • Number of joint children
  • Number of non-joint children
  • Health care costs
  • Child care costs
  • Voluntary underemployment or unemployment

Joint Child and Non-Joint Child

The amount of child support is increased for each joint child under age 18. A “joint” child is one who is the child of both parents for child support calculations. A “non-joint” child is one who is the child of the one of the parents and someone else. For example if parents A and B have a daughter and parent A has a son with parent C, then the daughter is a joint child and the son is a non-joint child. Different states treat non-joint children differently for child support purposes. Some states recognize that a non-joint child adds to the family’s expenses and may require less of that parent for child support to the joint child and in other states a non-joint child has no impact on child support calculations for a joint child.

Health Care Costs

There are generally two types of health care costs for minor children: insurance costs and unreimbursed medical expenses. When both parents have insurance for minor children available through their employment, both parents usually sign up and pay for insurance costs. One would be designated as primary insurance and one would be secondary to cover any expenses not covered by primary insurance. In some cases it is not cost effective for both parents to have insurance through their employment or one parent might not have insurance available. In that case the parent who pays for monthly insurance may have the amount paid credited to that parent in the child support calculations.

For example, if a parent pays $200 a month for insurance for the minor children he may owe $200 less in child support each month than he would if he were not paying the insurance premium. Only the cost of insurance for the child would count for child support calculations, even though a parent likely pays for his own insurance as well as for his children. The amount owed for insurance is based on what the cost would be for a single vs. what the cost is with minor children. The cost of the parent’s insurance is not a factor.

There are also unreimbursed medical expenses such as co-pays, deductibles or prescription expenses which may not be covered by insurance. In some cases unreimbursed expenses are shared equally and in some cases expenses are shared on a pro-rata basis based on the percentage of income for each parent. If one parent has $100,000 annual income and the other has $30,000 then they might share the costs with one paying 70% and the other paying 30%.

Other medical costs may need to be discussed or negotiated if parents do not agree on elective medical care such as elective surgery or elective counseling treatment. A court can help parents make these decisions if they cannot make them on their own.

Child Care Costs

Child care costs are usually factored into the child support calculations in the same way health care costs are factored. If the child is in day care the parents will either share the costs of child care or they will be factored into the amount of support due each month. If the non-custodial parent pays for child care, he may pay less in child support.

Getting Legal Help

Every state has different nuances for calculating child support. Laws vary as far as what impacts the total amount of child support due each month as well as how long child support must be paid.

Many states have online child support calculators which can give parents an idea of what support may be owed. Check your state’s local child support website for more information.

For more specific information on your specific case, only an experienced family law attorney can help you understand how the laws and calculations for your state apply directly to you. Despite having legal guidelines, child support can be manipulated to be higher or lower depending on individual circumstances. Contact a family law attorney today to learn more for your specific situation.

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