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How Child Support is Calculated

Updated on March 4, 2014

Child Support Calculation

The method used to calculate your child support payments will vary from state to state. Therefore, the exact guidelines used in each state can vary quite a bit. As a result, you can have an identical situation as someone in another state, but the amount of the child support ordered in each situation can be quite different. Furthermore, most states give their judges quite a bit of leeway with setting the amount of child support payments, as long as the general guidelines are followed.

In other states, however, the guidelines are quite strict and a specific formula must be followed in determining the amount of the child support payment. Due to all of these variables, there is no one set rule for calculating child support payments. At the same time, every state takes the same factors into consideration when determining these payments.

Factors Considered When Calculating Child Support

Regardless of the state where you live, all of the following factors will likely be taken into consideration when determining the amount of your child support payment:

  • The needs of the child or children in question, including educational needs, health insurance, day care needs and special needs
  • The needs of the parent that has custody of the child or children, referred to as the custodial parent
  • The ability of the non-custodial parent to make payments
  • The standard of living the child enjoyed prior to the divorce or separation
  • The needs of any other children the non-custodial parent may have to care for

The amount of importance placed on each of these factors varies from state to state. In addition, the guidelines used to determine factors such as the non-custodial parent's ability to pay also vary, so it is important to look into your specific state's guidelines for calculating child support payments. It should also be noted that factors that are not related to the child are not taken into consideration when determining child support payments.

For example, if the non-custodial parent was unfaithful or abusive toward his or her spouse, the judge cannot "punish" the non-custodial parent by ordering a larger child support payment. Furthermore, some states consider the income of both parents when calculating child support payments while others consider only the income of the non-custodial parent.

How To Use A Child Support Calculator To Calculate Child Support

Looking at Earning Potential

In some cases, a judge may also consider the earning potential of the non-custodial parent when determining child support payments rather than that person's actual earnings.

For example, if a person with a law degree decides to leave the profession in order to pursue a less stressful job that also pays less money, the judge may consider the potential income of that person based on his or her law degree. This is because the judge places more emphasis on the child's needs and the fact that the non-custodial parent could earn more if he or she so desired. Again, whether or not the judge considers earning potential when calculating child support payments will vary according to state.


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    • profile image

      A Mommy 7 years ago

      Here is situation. I am the custodial parent of two children. My ex pays child support and sees them every other weekend(he moved to another state). But recently they had a lot of orthodontic work done as was needed for severe crowding and difficulties, not just for cosmetic purposes! Both of our insurances paid equally, but there was a $580 co pay for each child. He refuses to pay HALF of the co pay for each of them saying he pays enough in child support.

      Can I take him to court to get him to pay half? He absolutely never buys them even the smallest things because he pays child support. It's his excuse. And I doubt he would pay child support if it wasn't court ordered, he resents me for it!

      He doesn't think I have a chance in court to get that HALF of the co pays from him.

    • Catlyn profile image

      Catlyn 9 years ago from Somewhere in the OC

      Very comprehensive and excellent hub! A wealth of information here!