Child support is a payment between parents as contribution to their children’s financial needs. There is a formula for calculating child support, which applies to certain income levels. When parents’ combined incomes are above that level, the calculation of child support can either be based upon the formula or the child(ren)’s expenses.
Both parents are legally obligated to contribute financially to a child’s support. This obligation continues until, in most cases, a child reaches the age of 18 years and has graduated high school or turns 19 years if not yet graduated. There is a legal presumption that child support is spent for the direct support of the child or children.
When calculated per the guidelines formula, child support is based upon the parents’ incomes (adjusted only for other child support or alimony paid) and the child(ren)’s cost for health insurance premium, extraordinary medical expenses, work-related childcare, school tuition (if applicable), and travel expenses incurred to exercise parenting time. If parents have shared physical custody, then the number of overnights are also included in the formula. The resulting figure is the presumed amount of child support to be paid.
When parents’ combined incomes are greater than the limits of the child support guidelines formula, then the Court uses it discretion to set the amount of child support. Discretion means a Judge or Magistrate deciding the appropriate amount of support, either based upon detailed financial statements of the parents and the children’s expenses or based upon extrapolated or extended child support guidelines.
The child support guidelines are presumptive when parents’ incomes fall within the guidelines’ limits. This means that the resulting support applies unless a parent can prove that a deviation (or award of a different amount of support; often less support) is appropriate. Deviation may be appropriate when, for example, a parent supports children from another relationship in the home; income varies from year to year; the children’s actual and reasonable expenses are less than the guidelines; or, the parents agree to the deviation.
The calculation of child support can be complicated when:
- Parents’ combined incomes are higher than the guidelines
- A parent’s income varies significantly from year or year
- A parent is self-employed and, so, responsible for paying him- or herself
- A parent’s income is difficult to track, for example cash
- A parent is unemployed or underemployed and may be voluntarily impoverished
- A child has significant expenses that change from year to year
- A parent supports multiple children from several relationships
Additionally, child support can be modified or adjusted whenever there is a material change in financial circumstances. These types of changes usually involve parents’ incomes or a child’s expenses included