How is the Amount of Child Support Determined?
Federal law now requires that the amount of a child support payment be set in accordance with a guideline. Having a guideline is believed to prevent widely different amounts of child support being ordered from courtroom to courtroom. Guidelines provide an objective basis for the determination of the amount of support to be paid. As a result, most states have established formulas that are used to determine the amount of the payment from one parent to the other.
What Other Items Do Formulas Consider?
Time Spent With Child. Besides the respective net incomes of the parents, the amount of time each parent spends with the child is factored into the formula. Since a parent who spends more time with the child is most likely incurring greater expense in raising the child, the “custodial parent” (a term that is often used in association with the parent who has the physical custody and responsibility the majority of the time) is considered to spend more money on the child than the “non-custodial parent” (the parent without primary physical custody). Since the custodial parent spends more of his/her income on the child, the child support formula includes this factor in determining the amount of child support to be paid by one parent to the other.
Number of Children. Along with the amount of time that a parent spends with a child, the number of children in common between the parents is often considered. The theory is that certain fixed expenses do not rise with the number of children for whom support must be provided, so the actual amount of support per child is lower given the greater number of children in common.
Special Circumstances. In addition, special circumstances may require a greater amount of child support to be paid. Special circumstances, such as extraordinary medical expenses, special educational needs, travel expenses incurred for child visitation, uninsured catastrophic losses and the cost of basic living expenses for children from another relationship, can affect the amount of guideline child support that is to be paid.
Since there are a number of factors that go into the formula to determine guideline child support, some states have approved computer programs designed specifically for determining the amount of child support. Use of a computer program to determine the amount of child support is a very objective method for determining child support.
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