How is child support calculated?

Modified on 26 Sep 2016 at 2:50 pm

Most states provide a formula that calculates the appropriate amount of child support. The court looks out for what is in the best interest of the children. This means a judge won’t necessarily approve whatever agreements you and your spouse may come up with.

The formulas are usually set forth in the family codes or statutes for your state. You can get a rough estimate of what your child support obligation may be by using our calculator. Once you select your state and provide some information, the LegalVorce platform will provide you with your state’s calculation of child support. You will be able to request a deviation from that amount, but you will likely have to justify the change to the court before it is approved.

Some states use an income share model. This model relies upon the income of both parents and the number of children. By way of example, if the net income of the primary custodian is $6,000 per month and the income of the non-primary custodian is $4,000 per month, the combined total monthly net income for both parents is $10,000 per month. The state will have a table that will estimate the total cost of raising two children is $2,500 per month. Because the non-primary custodian’s income is 40% of the combined total income, the states who use the income share model would require the non-primary custodian to pay 40% of $2,500 or $1,000 per month.

Others states use a percentage of net income model. Here, the state looks solely to the net income of the non-primary custodial parent and include tables that say how much a parent should pay based on that net income and the number of children. In Texas, for example, a non-custodial parent with two children and a net income of $4,000 per month would be ordered to pay $800 per month. The income of the primary custodian, regardless of whether it is substantially higher or lower, is not generally factored into the calculation.

Still others use a combination of those models to allow for adjustments when there is a large disparity between the primary and non-primary custodians’ incomes.

Finally, some states use what is referred to as the Melson formula. This formula considers a variety of factors including cost of living adjustments and the needs of the child. It allows for variation as the incomes of the parents vary over time.