How Does the Judge Determine Child Support?

iStock_000010906325_LargeWhile each state has its own guidelines for calculating child support, the biggest common determinant for all states in calculating child custody is related to each parent’s income.

The federal Child Support Enforcement Act mandates that each state must come up with a formula for calculating child support, though some states allow the judges considerably more deciding power than others. As mentioned before, though income tends to commonly be the largest consideration, the needs of the child in question (such as healthcare, education, day care, and any special needs), the needs of the custodial parent, the paying parent’s ability to pay, and the child’s standard of living before the divorce are all strong factors contributing to the decision as well. Typically the court’s primary aim is to reinstate the standard of living the children experienced before the divorce, or reinstate as much of a restoration as is possible.

In some cases the judges can and will deviate from their state set guidelines by request of one of the parents, but not always. Typically, these appeals are only successful if the parent requesting more or less than the guidelines allot for provides documentation to support their position. For example, if you think your spouse should pay more, it would be wise to compile a budget of the extra expenses you’ll need to cover that the guidelines don’t account for, such as paying for your child to continue at the prestigious private school they’ve attended since before the divorce.

The following may be potential reasons for you to ask that more or less be paid in your child support case:

  • The non custodial parent is capable of paying more
  • The guideline amount is more than what is needed
  • The paying parent can’t pay
  • A child has special needs
  • The parent’s current earnings don’t reflect their future earnings (if they are newly graduated from medical school and previously only had a part time job)

Additionally, there are many online calculators that could help you get a rough estimate for what may happen in court. This one for the State of California doesn’t predict a child support figure for joint custody support, but rather assumes one parent will have primary custody. It figures support based on health insurance premiums, the incomes of both parents, and whether or not there is alimony or child support paid to any previous marriages by either parent, or whether they’re receiving child support from previous marriages.

However, even though the Judge does determine the amount of child support paid, a good attorney may be able to help you lessen or increase child support payments.

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