Factors Used in Setting Child Support

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What Is Child Support?

When adults have children, they become legally obligated to financially support them until the age of majority, which is usually 18.  Therefore, divorced parents with children under age 18 will almost always owe some amount of child support. States, like California for instance, may provide a government website with a Child Support Calculator. Alternatively, a parent can go in person to the local courthouse to get free help from a “family law facilitator” regarding the factors used in determining child support amounts.

What Are the Main Factors in Calculating Child Support?

The calculation of child support depends on numerous factors.  Perhaps the most important is how much money the parents earn.  Both parents’ incomes are taken into consideration.  Also, the amount a parent is able to earn is considered – that is, if a doctor in his 40s is lying on the beach all day instead of working, she or he may still owe child support even with no income.  A related factor is how much other income each parent receives.  For example, parents may earn interest or other investment income. 

The next set of factors concerns the family structure – that is, how many children are involved.  Obviously, more kids means more money (a truism every parent can attest to). There is the factor of how much time each parent spends with their children – in this case, more time spent with kids usually means less money owed to the other parent for child support.

The age and status of the children will matter. Depending on the state and the child support agreement, the child support may end at some point in the child’s life. Some states and agreements will allow the parents to cut off support when the child reaches the age of majority. Others will require that the children graduate from college or that the children become married before the support can be terminated.

Note that stepchildren are not counted in some states for purposes of child support as those states do not recognize the stepparents as being legal guardians for those children. If there is no legal obligation then there is no child support.

What Other Factors Are There In Determining Child Support?

This list is not exhaustive. Family law courts are designated “courts of equity,” which means they can and do take into consideration all relevant facts and circumstances in determining the most just and fair outcome of the case.  They are charged primarily with looking out for the best interests of the child.
Other factors include:

Do I Need An Attorney To Obtain or Modify Child Support?

Unless both parents agree on a child support amount, you will need to go into court to establish or modify child support. The court procedure for establishing or modifying child support can be very confusing, so it may be wise to consult with an experienced family law attorney to make sure your interests are protected.

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Last Modified: 09-26-2012 11:13 AM PDT

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