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An overview of how child support is calculated

Child support are payments made by one parent to the other to support the raising of their child. When one party has sole custody of the child, the non-custodial parent must pay child support to the custodial parent. If the couple holds joint custody, it is possible that no child support payments will be ordered because both parents are engaged in raising the child.

If joint custody is awarded, then child support is calculated based on what each parent earns and the percentage of time each parent spends with the child. Family law is strictly a state issue. However, most states follow these general guidelines:

  • Considering the income and ability of each parent (custodial and non-custodial).
  • The financial needs of the child including food, medical, education, entertainment, shelter and any other expenses.
  • The child's standard of living before and after the divorce or separation.
  • As always, the guiding principle is whatever is in the best interests of the child.

Once the court determines that child support payments are proper, it will ask both parents to submit statements detailing their financial situation. This allows the court to calculate how much each parent is able to pay in child support. It does this by adding up all income and subtracting mandatory deductions. Mandatory deductions are expenses that must be paid no matter what, like Social Security and income taxes. However, depending on the circumstances, loan payments may or may not be considered mandatory by a the court.

The court will assess your income based on what you actually earn and what you could potentially earn. There is no way to dodge your support payments if you artificially try to lower your income. The court will consider a variety of factors including work history, education and prior salaries in determining if you are being underpaid.

If you are in the process of having your child support payments set, then it is probably a good idea to speak with a lawyer. Child support payments are one of the few economic obligations that are nearly impossible to avoid. A lawyer can help prepare your legal strategy so that your payment obligations are fair and take into account your expenses.

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