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How to Do Child Support Calculations

Child Anger, Child Support, Noncustodial, Noncustodial Parent

All child support calculations are computed based on state child support guidelines. Unfortunately for parents who would like to estimate the future child support payments of a noncustodial parent, the common denominator sort of ends there. While the guidelines for one state may be substantially the same as some other states, the general truth is that guidelines vary widely from state to state. A parent often asks, “How is child support calculated?”. But the simple fact is there is not a single correct answer to that question due to these differing guidelines.

But the first thing a parent can do is learn the general process by which states do child support calculations. More importantly, though, is the second step of determining how to complete child support calculations in the state where a child support lawsuit will be filed. Following the proper state guidelines is the only way to get a reasonable estimate of how much a particular noncustodial parent will owe under a court order.

General Guidelines

1. States usually start the calculations with the combined income of both parents. They then publish schedules which show the percentages and amounts of income based on that combined income. Keep in mind, though, that states sometimes use net income or “adjusted gross income.”

Adjusted gross income is usually total income minus the cost of existing court orders for child support and alimony, amounts spent on health insurance or out-of-pocket medical expenses and amounts spent on child care. Of course, every state’s guidelines will have a specific definition of gross income or net income.

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Some states, however, use only the income of the noncustodial parent who must pay child support. Thus, the child support calculations for these states may vary greatly from those that use combined income.When combined income is used, then the person paying support only pays a percentage amount roughly equal to his percentage of the combined income. So if he earns 75% of the money, he may have to pay 75% of the total support. But if the mother earns 75%, then the father would pay roughly 25% of the support.

2. Some other things will reduce the amount owed on child support. A prime example of this is joint custody. For example, if a noncustodial parent who has only one weekend of visitation a month pays $200 per month in child support, that same father would generally pay much less if he has joint custody. Most states’ guidelines will give credit to that father for the time he has physical custody of the child. This situation also occurs with the more complicated split custody. Child support calculations can get very complicated when multiple children are scattered between two parents.

3. In the typical state, the percentage of income going towards support per child goes down as the number of children goes up. This is only logical, as a family with many children could surpass 100% of the income at some point. So if one child gets 18%, it may be that two children get only 28% instead of 36%. That number almost always goes down until reaching five or six children. At that point, states usually set a maximum percent for the child support calculations because some money must be left over for other expenses.

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Figuring State Guidelines

How child support is calculated in general does not do much good for a particular parent. You will need to find the guidelines for your own state to correctly compute child support calculations. To do this, you should simply go to a search engine, enter your state name and then enter “child support.” In the search results, you will find the state agency that handles child support issues. Look around that agency’s website to find either child support worksheets, schedules or calculators. If it is available the “dummies” way of doing child support calculations is to just use a state calculator.

Not all states have a calculator. Because figuring out how child support is calculated based on guidelines, you can refer to the AllLaw calculator for your state to do the child support calculations for you. In addition to AllLaw, you can also type “free child support calculators” in a search engine to find websites that may offer devices to do child support calculations that are based on the guidelines of your home state.


AllLaw Child Support Calculators