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How is the amount of child support calculated?

Each state has developed guidelines that help establish the amount of child support that must be paid. The guidelines vary significantly from state to state, but they are all generally based on the parent's incomes and expenses and the needs of the children. In some states, the guidelines allow judges greater discretion in determining the amount of child support that must be paid, but in other states any variance from the guidelines must be carefully justified or it can be readily overturned on appeal. Often, the guidelines are set out in a chart-type format that calculates the child support amount as a percentage of the paying parent's income that increases as the number of children being supported rises. It is important to remember, however, that the guidelines are just that-guidelines-and they are not fixed amounts that must be applied under any and all circumstances. Judges are free to deviate from the guidelines when there are good reasons to do so. If, for instance, one party or a child has higher than average expenses, the amount can vary. Or if the court determines that the paying parent is voluntarily earning less than he or she could for the purpose of minimizing the child support obligation, the judge can calculate the amount of child support based on what the payer is capable of earning.

Despite the variations from state to state, there are some general factors that are almost universally considered by judges issuing child support orders, including

  • The child's standard of living before the parents' separation or divorce;
  • The paying parent's ability to pay;
  • The custodial parent's needs and income; and
  • The needs of the child or children, including educational costs, daycare expenses, and medical expenses, such as for health insurance or special health care needs.

Judges will often review a financial statement completed by each parent that lists all sources and amounts of income and expense before issuing an order. If any of the listed items changes significantly, either parent may go back to court and ask for an increase or decrease in the amount of child support ordered.

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Disclaimer

This publication and the information included in it are not intended to serve as a substitute for consultation with an attorney. Specific legal issues, concerns and conditions always require the advice of appropriate legal professionals.

 




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The Law Offices of Michael R. Magaril
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Westfield, NJ 07090
Phone: (908) 389-0100
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Email: mrm@magaril.com