In the context of family law, "support guidelines" are a set of factors used in the calculation of child support amounts. Support guidelines may be issued by the state government, or by more local government entities. They are typically available through court publications online or through private publications. They may be associated with online child support calculator websites.

One should be cautious when utilizing child support guidelines that are found online or through other sources.  As guidelines, they are exactly that- simply guidelines to be used for suggesting an approximate child support figure. While the guidelines can be referred to during a child support hearing, the guidelines themselves are not meant to replace the actual calculations determined by a court through the participation of a qualified lawyer.

In some cases, the term “support guidelines” may also refer to similar guidelines for spousal support or alimony awards. 

What Are Some Factors Used in Support Guidelines?

Child support guidelines may incorporate several factors, including:

  • Factors related to each of the child’s parents- These may include the parent’s income, earning capacity, and physical/mental health
  • Factors related to the child- These may include educational needs; special physical, emotional or mental needs; and regular participation in certain school and extracurricular activities
  • “Choice of law”- sometimes different overlapping state laws might be applicable (especially if one of the parents lives in a different state); the different laws can affect the total child support figure

Specifically, child support guidelines may focus on the discussion of “income” for child support purposes. Income can include a wide array of sources including the parent’s work wages and salary, bonuses, gifts from other people, and profits or winnings from other sources.

Lastly, one factor that support guidelines typically use is the percentage of time that each parent spends with the child in comparison with the other parent’s percentage. Generally, the parent that spends more time with the child also has majority custody, and will be awarded the custody amounts according to the support order schedule.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Support Guidelines?

Each state has different laws when it comes to child support and support guidelines. If you need assistance in getting a child support award calculated, you may wish to contact a child support lawyer for advice. Your attorney can review all the factors surrounding your situation to determine the optimal amount for a support award. Also, a qualified attorney can provide assistance in the event of a lawsuit and during the actual court hearings.