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What are Child Support Guidelines?

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What Are Child Support Guidelines?

Child support guidelines are laws or statutes that set forth the rules with regards to child support payments. Child support may be required in instances where one parent has custody of the child; in such cases, the non-custodial parent will typically be required to render a child support payment on a monthly basis. The guidelines determine how these payments are to be made, how much, and how they can be collected.

The U.S. federal government requires every state to have clearly defined guidelines for calculating child support amounts. These may vary from state to state.

How Do Child Support Guidelines Work?

Child support guidelines work by accomplishing a few basic objectives:

  • Establishing legal obligation of the parent to pay child support: This may involve measures such as a paternity test
  • Determining the amount using various formulas: This may be different for each state

In terms of child support calculations, many states simply use a flat percentage of the parent’s annual income. These may be deducted directly from the paying parent’s paycheck each month. Other states may use multiple factors for determining support amounts, including cost of living, school fees, basic expenses, and any special needs of the child. 

Again, the child support guidelines will clearly state how these calculations work. They often utilize computer-based programs to factor in many aspects including yearly earnings, taxes, insurance, visitation, and other costs.

What If Child Support Guidelines are Disregarded?

Child support guidelines create rigid requirements for child support orders. Violation of the order can result in legal consequences, including a contempt order, court fines, or even criminal charges depending on the situation. If adjustments are needed, it’s best to file a petition with the court for a modification of child support. This should be done before changing support amounts in order to avoid a violation. 

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

Child support guidelines can often be very difficult to understand. It may be necessary to hire a family lawyer in you area if you need assistance with child support guidelines. Your lawyer can explain how the guidelines work, and what your legal rights and obligations are under such laws. Also, your lawyer can assist you during court meetings for child support.

Photo of page author Jose Rivera

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 04-03-2015 11:38 AM PDT

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