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How is Child Support Calculated?

Every state handles income for calculating child support a little differently. Generally speaking child support is calculated based on both parents’ gross income. Along with income the following factors also play a role in determining child support:

  • Number of children from the relationship
  • Number of children from prior relationships
  • Health care costs
  • Child care costs
  • Is there voluntary underemployment or unemployment
  • Number of nights the child/children spend(s) with each parent.

Essentially, the expenses of the child are to be shared by the parents in proportion to their percentage of the total income of both parents. In a case where there is a primary parent, and a secondary parent, the child support is calculated on a “Worksheet B”. If there are two parents sharing parenting time more equally, the child support is calculated on a “Worksheet B” There is also a “Worksheet C”, if the parents divide the children between themselves, like one parent has primary custody of one child, and the other parent has primary custody of another child.

Children not of the Relationship

As parents have an obligation for all of their children, child support calculations take into account children that are not subject to the child support action. The child support guidelines either subtract the amount of prior court orders from the gross income or calculate support needed for the other children and deduct that amount from the gross income to be used for the calculation.

Health Care Costs

There are generally two types of health care costs for minor children: insurance costs and unreimbursed medical expenses. When there is health insurance coverage for the child/children, the parent who pays for monthly insurance may have the amount paid credited to that parent in the child support calculations. When both sign up and pay for insurance costs, a Judge can choose the insurance to be used in the calculation or have one plan designated as primary insurance and one plan secondary to cover any expenses not covered by primary insurance. Then both premiums paid will be used in the calculation.

For example if a parent pays $200 a month for insurance for the minor children he/she will get a credit for the portion he/she is paying on the other parent’s behalf. Only the cost of insurance for the child/children would count for child support calculations even though a parent likely pays for their own insurance as well as for their children. The cost of the parent’s insurance is not a factor.

There are also unreimbursed medical expenses such as co-pays, deductibles or prescription expenses which may not be covered by insurance. In some cases unreimbursed expenses are shared equally and in some cases expenses are shared on a pro-rata basis based on the percentage of income for each parent. If one parent has $100,000 annual income and the other has $30,000 then they might share the costs with one paying 70% and the other paying 30%. The first $250 of uncovered expenses are considered to be included in guideline child support for Worksheet A cases.

Other medical costs may need to be discussed or negotiated if parents do not agree on elective medical care such as elective surgery or elective counseling treatment. A court can help parents make these decisions if they cannot make them on their own.

Child Care Costs

Work related Child care costs are usually factored into the child support calculations in the same way health care costs are factored. If the child is in day care or after school care, the cost will be factored into the amount of support due each month.

Extraordinary Costs

Some cases involve extraordinary expenses, like physical therapy, special schools, medical care, intense training of gifted children. In some circumstances, these costs can be included in the calculations.

College costs are not included. Children who are over 18, and have graduated high school are no longer considered in child support calculations. Children who have become legally emancipated are not considered.

Each case is different but the law provides that Child Support Guidelines govern child support unless there is reason to deviate. Child support can be recalculated upon sufficient changes in circumstances, like income changes, health care cost increases, child care cost increases or decreases.