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How is Child Support Calculated?

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Question: How is Child Support Calculated?

Child support is the most litigious aspect of a divorce case. Most issues that come up during the divorce process are resolved once and for all by the final decree of divorce but child support and issues surrounding it may go on for years after the divorce is final. Each state has it’s own laws and guidelines on how child support is calculated.

Answer:

All states have a formula established or court rules that determine the amount of child support to be paid. Other issues such as misconduct by the parent or how marital assets are split do not affect the amount paid. State child support guidelines take into consideration the following things:

  • The needs of the child.
  • The ability of the non – custodial parent to support him or herself.
  • The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the parents not divorced.
  • Provisions for any additional children the non – custodial parent may have.
Income Based Calculations:

In some states, child support calculation is based only on the income of the non – custodial parent. In other states both parent’s income is taken into consideration. In Indiana, child support guidelines factor in the income of both parents and assign each a share of the child’s living expenses as set forth by the guidelines. However, Massachusetts’s child support guidelines consider only the income of the non – custodial parent. Guidelines for addressing extraordinary living expenses such as college tuition, daycare and extracurricular activities differ by state.

Refusal to Pay Child Support:

As long as a non – custodial parent remains in the same job non - payment of child support is not an issue because their wages can be garnished. However, if this is not the case and the non – custodial parent refuses to pay child support he/she can be sentenced to jail for contempt of court. There are private and stage agencies set up to help a custodial parent pursue a delinquent non – custodial parent. Government agencies have a variety of enforcement tools as their disposal, including:

  • The suspension of the non-paying parent's driver's license.
  • The revocation of any professional licenses the non-paying parent may hold, such as a medical license or license to practice law.
  • Seizure of income tax refunds.
Modification of Child Support Orders

You should never simply refuse to pay child support. If there are legitimate reasons you are unable to pay, you should petition the court for a modification of your child support obligation. As well, a custodial parent can petition the court to modify child support if the they feel they deserve an increase. Grounds for modification may include:

  • A reduction in the income of either parent.
  • A serious illness or disability of either parent.
  • A change in your child’s circumstances such as reaching the age of majority or inheriting money.
  • A change in the financial circumstances of either parent.

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