How Child Support Calculations Work

By Andrew Lu on August 13, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Child support calculations is a popular question both for custodial parents who would receive the support and non-custodial parents who would have to pay.

The difficulty and confusion surrounding child support calculations can partly be explained by the fact that there are no uniform national rules for how much someone has to pay.

Instead, each state has its own rules on how much child support is owed, and calculating payments generally depends upon individual circumstances like how much someone makes and how many children they have.

So two neighbors could both owe child support for one child, but the amount one neighbor pays could be drastically different than what the other neighbor pays.

Factors for Child Support Calculations

Child support is typically set by a court that evaluates the state guidelines for how much someone has to pay. Most states provide guidelines for support that offer a range of what has to be paid. Where along the spectrum a parent falls, can depend upon the following factors:

  • The financial needs of the child, including education, day care, insurance or any special needs
  • The income and needs of the parent with custody of the child
  • The income and ability to pay of the parent who is paying child support
  • The child's standard of living before any separation or divorce (although court's typically understand that it is difficult to maintain the same standard of living)

In addition, courts will oftentimes consider loan payment, taxes, and other child support obligations that the paying parent owes when considering his or her ability to pay. The rationale is that mandatory payments affect the real-life ability of the parent to pay.

Finally, parents who owe child support should realize that they generally can't avoid making such payments by sitting around and not working. In calculating child support, courts frequently consider how much a parent could earn and not what they actually earn. If you have questions about child support, you will want to contact a family law attorney in your area.

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