Child support guidelines are a body of literature that may be produced by a state entity or through the court system. They provide an outline of different factors that may be considered during the calculation of a child support award figure. 

For instance, child support guidelines may consider factors related to the parents, such as their income, financial stability, monthly needs, and work history. The guidelines may also consider the needs of the child, such as their educational background and physical/mental health.  Each state has different child support calculation laws, so the guidelines may also vary from state to state (and sometimes even from county to county).

What Is Income for Child Support Guidelines?

Of the different factors reviewed in child support guidelines, perhaps one of the most important is that of “income.” That is, child support amounts are generally fixed according to the income of each parent. For child support purposes, the term “income” for parents may include:

  • Wages and salaries from employment
  • Tips, commission, and other types of bonuses
  • Earnings from self-employment activities
  • Bonuses related to unemployment
  • Compensation from disability or worker’s comp. claims
  • Interest, dividends, and other sources of finance
  • Income from rental properties
  • Pension income and income derived from Social Security payouts
  • Winnings from lotteries and other prizes
  • Payments from debt owed to the parent or credit being paid to them
  • Various other sources of monetary income for the parent

What Are the Child Support Amounts?

The amount of child support that is paid by noncustodial parents is determined at the state level after the state guidelines and factors regarding each parent's income and expenses is considered. The amount is also sometimes determined by the judge in some states who is given the power to set the amount as long as the state guidelines are followed.

The amount of child support that is considered when determining the amount usually include the needs of the child including things like health insurance, education, day care costs, and special needs. The income of parent paying the child support payments is also considered when setting the child support amount to be paid.

What Is Not Considered Parent Income?

On the other hand, some sources may not be considered parent income under most state child support guidelines. These are excluded from the child support calculations, and may include:

  • Taxes
  • Various contributions and dues collected (such as those related to membership in a union)
  • Premiums related to health coverage
  • Child/spousal support that is already being paid
  • Costs related to child-rearing from a different relationship

These types of income will usually be subtracted from the overall income listed above. The remaining amount is called “net disposable income”; it is this figure which usually forms the general basis for the child support calculation.

What Does Child Support Payments Cover?

Child support payments does not just cover the child's financial necessities such as food and clothing, but also other expenses that is incurred by the custodial parent trying to take care of the child. Child support payments also can cover other expenses including school fees and expenses, entertainment, medical expenses, health insurance, extracuricular activities, and other special needs.

The courts want to ensure that the child lives the standard living before divorce and make the noncustodial parent to make payments to cover any expenses incurred by the custodial parent who is raising the child.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help Understanding Child Support Guidelines?

Obtaining an appropriate child support figure is essential for the proper raising and caring for the children involved. You may wish to hire a family law attorney for help understanding how child support guidelines work. An experienced lawyer in your area can provide you with valuable legal information, advice, and representation during court proceedings.