FAQ: How Child Support Payments are Calculated
Every state has established laws pertaining to how child support amounts are calculated, and which of the parents shall be required to pay them on a recurring basis. The needs of the child or children, health insurance, costs for food, day care, special needs, income level of parents, and child’s standard of living prior to divorce or separation are all commonly factored into the ultimate decision.
Parents who need help regarding child support, may meet with a family lawyer offers for advice. Child support cases can be emotional, stressful and complicated. Sometimes a parent needs legal guidance for a lawyer during this time, who can advocate on their behalf during court hearings too. Here are just a few of the most common questions a parent may ask their lawyer when it comes to child support payments:
Q: What is child support exactly?
A: By definition, child support is an ongoing financial expense which is required in order to cover a child’s medical and living costs. Each parent has a legal responsibility to provide monetary support for their child or children. The court may decide either one or both parents are to make continuous payments to cover the child’s necessities for living. Funds may be needed to buy the child or children new clothes, school supplies, gear for extracurricular activities, food, medicine, and more.
Q: Does how much I earn going to make a difference in child support payments?
A: Income level of the each parent is one of the biggest factors in how much is paid to the custodial parent of the child or children. While most states factor in income level, some may calculate based on gross income while others use net income instead. When the courts determine how much is owed, both the needs of the children and the paying parents ability to afford that amount is considered. The ways a parent may receive income can come from:
- Job wages
- Unemployment benefits
- Self-employment earnings
- Rental income
- Social security/pensions
Q: What if a parent loses his or her job, will child support amount change?
A: Child support orders are not automatically updated as the parent’s earnings change. If a parent was to be let go from his or her employer, a request for child support reassessment can be submitted to the court. The child support orders may be decreased or increased based on how a parent’s earnings fluctuate. Other circumstances that may mean child support modification is needed include:
- A child or children suffered from a costly medical emergency
- Either parent remarries and receives additional income
- The costs of living greatly increased (rent, utilities, etc.)
- The child or children’s needs have changed
Q: Do custody arrangements impact child support requirements?
A: When a single parent is awarded sole legal or physical custody, it is the other parent who often is required to make child support payments. If the parents share joint custody, the obligations for child support payments can be based on how much each parent earns along with how the time is split up between them.