How To Calculate Child Support

Mom and ChildProbably the single most difficult and contentious component in any divorce settlement is the amount of child support the custodial parent will be receiving from their former spouse. And the simple truth is, unfortunately, that most women enter this discussion knowing virtually nothing about what are the exact considerations that come into play when authorities make their final determination.

Once you and your “ex” have worked out where the child will be living the majority of the time, that’s when the work of determining the specifics of the child support calculation really begin. Entering that discussion with a good general understanding of how a child support official (or the parents themselves) will make their decision is crucial to ensuring that your child’s best interests are being addressed.

The Most Common Calculation
In the majority of cases, the minor children of divorcing parents will be living more often with one parent than the other. And whoever has the highest percentage of custody is considered the custodial parent. This is the parent who will be receiving child support.

While all states have their own specific child support calculator guidelines, the formula most jurisdictions use for determining how much support the custodial parent will receive is usually a fairly simple process. Generally speaking, a jurisdiction’s officials will consider:

  • The needs of the child – one of the principle guiding factors in any child support calculator will center on an effort to determine what the child’s standard of living would be if the parents were not separating. Most jurisdictions will direct the non-custodial parent to pay an amount that ensures maintenance of that standard for the child.

  • The paying parent’s income – typically, a percentage of the gross (before tax) earnings of the paying parent is the starting point for designating a support amount. Of course, jurisdictions (and negotiating couples) must factor in the paying parent’s ability to support themselves, too, when looking to decide what percentage of this income will be earmarked for child support.

  • Special considerations – these usually involve such conditions as special health care needs, extraordinary expenses for extracurricular activities, educational costs, and the like. The general guideline here is deciding which of these expenses are necessary, and which are reasonable – which is best decided by the separating parents themselves.

Whether it is the parents themselves jointly agreeing on these factors, or a particular jurisdiction’s support officials, those are the primary considerations guiding the child support calculator for determining how much the paying parent will be expected to provide.

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The Decision Process
As difficult as it may be for a divorcing couple to work together on establishing an equitable child support calculator, doing so is the surest way to avoid future disagreements and disruptions in payments, which will inevitably have a negative impact on the child’s wellbeing.

Most jurisdictions welcome the opportunity to work with cooperating parents in this process, and will generally follow any agreement separating couples work-out themselves and present to the court. Considering that the alternative is to have such an agreement imposed on the paying parent – designing a mutually agreed upon child support calculator is much more preferable.

Generally, such an agreement has a few basic steps, which include:

  • the written details of your agreement

  • the signature of each party

  • the signature of an impartial witness (e.g. family counselor)

  • register, or file it with the appropriate jurisdiction

Setting-up a process that addresses the needs of the child, while being reasonable for the paying parent, is the best route to building a workable child support calculator.

If you would like to discuss child support, please leave a comment below or contact me directly. I’ll be glad to offer any assistance that I can or I can introduce you to a good family law attorney.

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