Skip to main content

If you are in the midst of a divorce and there are children involved, you might wonder how child support will be decided. Contrary to popular belief, child support is not based on the whims of a judge; instead, a specific formula is used depending on your state. There are exceptions made, of course, but as a general rule, child support numbers are not pulled out of the air. If you are wondering whether you will be paying or receiving child support, here is some information useful to you as child support help.


Child Support Factors Vary by State

Some of the factors that are considered will vary by which state you live in. Most states count the income of both parents when determining whether child support should be awarded and how much it should be. Other states only consider the income of the non-custodial parent. Some states also take into consideration what percentage of the time each parent has the children. For example, a father who has his child half the time might pay less child support than one who has visitation every other weekend.

In some states, the amount of money paid might vary depending on income fluctuations, but in other states, it will be the same amount each month. Your legal advocacy group can tell you which factors are a consideration when it comes to your state so you can calculate a rough number based on that.


Percentage of Income

The way that most states do it is to figure out what percentage of the total income each parent makes. For example, if the total monthly income is $10,000 with the non-custodial parent making $7,000 per month and the custodial parent making $3,000 per month, that means that the higher-paid parent should contribute 70 percent (and the lower-paid parent 30 percent) of the expenses required to raise a child. The judge will refer to an economic table that sets the amount needed per child each month.

If, as an example, the amount per child is $1,000 per month, then the child support might be set at $700 per month, barring extenuating circumstances. If the amount per child is $2,000 per month, then the child support payment might be $1,400 per month. If the situation were switched and the custodial parent made substantially more, then the noncustodial parent would only pay $300 or $600 per month with the same numbers.

In another state, however, a set percentage of the noncustodial parent’s income might be set as their contribution toward the care of the child. If the percentage was 25 percent, then if it were the higher-earning parent who was the noncustodial parent, the monthly child support would be $1,750, and if the lower-earning parent was noncustodial, the monthly child support would be $750.


Standard of Living Considerations

Some states consider how the child has been accustomed to living up until the point of the divorce. They recognize that it wouldn’t be fair for the child to have to forego private school, vacations, summer camps, and other lifestyle choices that they have been accustomed to. For this reason, the percentage of income that the non-custodial parent pays might be higher than it would be if he or she didn’t have the income to allow for those luxuries. Most parents want their children to have a certain standard of living, and it’s not always feasible for the custodial parent to meet that standard, particularly if they have a lower income


Financial Considerations For Child Support

There are many considerations that might cause the child support payment to be higher or lower on either a temporary or permanent basis. One common concern is when one parent, usually the mother, stays home and gives up several years in her career in order to raise the children. Her earning potential can be reduced in this instance, so some judges will increase the amount of child support given for a certain number of years, then will expect that parent to begin earning enough to make up the difference.

If a minor or adult child has special needs and requires therapies, equipment, medical care, or other services that are not part of most families’ expenses, this can alter how much child support is given. Another factor to consider might be whether one parent pays or receives child support or alimony from a previous relationship or whether they have a live-in partner who contributes to the running of the household.

One parent might be responsible for daycare, or both parents might be equally responsible for those fees. One parent is usually responsible for paying for health insurance for the children. One parent might get bonuses or overtime at work, while another one might have to pay union dues or have other expenses. All of these are something that the judge will consider. These might raise or lower the amount of child support paid.



While it’s not related to child support, sometimes alimony payments will be ordered at the same time that child support payments are ordered. This is also called spousal support. It’s more common when one spouse makes substantially more than the other, particularly if the lesser-paid spouse stayed home to raise children or to manage the household. Alimony is another consideration because it involves the amount of money going out of one home and into another after the divorce is final.

One thing to keep in mind when it comes to child support is that it’s not always paid from an ex-husband to an ex-wife. In some cases, the wife makes more money and in some cases, the husband is the person who receives primary custody of the children. It’s also possible that the lesser-paid spouse will be paying child support to the spouse that makes more money. Ideally, these amounts will work out well for both parties and the children will have their needs met without either parent going without their own needs. If the judge makes a judgment that does not provide or leave you with enough income to cover your own needs, ask your legal advocacy group to see what your options are. In some cases, a modification to child support can be made and the amounts can be changed.


Leave a Reply