Establishing & Calculating Child Support
One of the most important aspects of any divorce or separation is how to handle caring for your children. The court will consider a number of factors to determine who has custody of your children and for what period of time. After that has been set and ordered by the judge, the matter of support will be discussed.
Child support is in essence a very simple concept – even if the children’s parents are no longer together, both share some responsibility for caring for their children. There are many factors that come into play when determining how much of the support each parent carries. The transition from a couple to two separate individuals will include many changes, all of which will have some influence – large or small – in how child custody and child support are determined. This means there are several nuances to the process of child support, and a number of factors to consider.
The Court must take into consideration the income of both parents and whether or not that income can be considered for child support. Some of that income will come from:
- Social Security
- Veteran Benefits
- Unemployment Payments
- Gifts and Inheritances
- Income from Rental Property
- Seasonal, Part-Time or Second Jobs
- Lottery Winnings
- Trust Income
Some Commonly Asked Questions Include:
- How do courts calculate child support? Most child support orders take into account the relative income of each parent, and the amount of time each parent spends directly tending the children. If custody is split evenly between both parents, for instance, the amount of child support may be smaller than if one parent has full custody. However, just because there is an equal timeshare, does NOT mean that there will NOT be an order for child support.
- Do fathers have the same right to child custody & support as mothers? YES. The rights under the law are the same for both genders. There are several factors that influence custody and child support, but parental gender is not one of them. Fathers who have full custody of their children have exactly the same rights to child support that they would if they were mothers instead.
- How long must parents support their children? Typically, child support agreements last until the children in question reach age 18 and graduate high school. However, there are some cases where child support may change or cease altogether earlier than this; those matters are handled on a case-by-case basis and need specific legal scrutiny.
- How do custody arrangements affect child support obligations? In very general terms, the more time a parent spends with custody of the couple’s children, the more that parent needs in child support from the other parent. A parent who has full custody of the children will typically be awarded more in child support than a parent who splits custody with their co-parent 50/50, all other things being equal.
- Will the court consider high living expenses such as loan payments and income taxes when determining one’s ability to pay child support? A court looks at both parent’s gross income from all sources, while taking into account deductions like income taxes, Social Security, health care, union dues, and mandatory retirement.
- Can the court base its child support order on what I am able to earn, as opposed to what I’m actually earning?In most cases, a parent’s income is the primary factor that is used to determine child support. However, not all parents are employed at the time of divorce, or perhaps only work part time or are underemployed. Given the individual situation of each different case, a judge may decide that the earning potential of one or both of the parents is a better guideline for how much a child support order should claim. It is assumed by the court in these cases that both parents will make their best attempts to secure work and provide for their families. The Court can calculate support based on a parents ability to earn, if the parent is unemployed or underemployed in some cases.
- Is a father who never married the mother still required to pay child support? Yes. While in many cases divorce agreements include orders for child custody, visitation, and support, all of those orders are determined separately from divorce proceedings. Even parents who were never married are still responsible for the financial care of their children – just as they have the right to fight for custody and/or visitation with those children.
- Is a stepparent obligated to financially support his or her stepchildren? No. Step-parents are under no legal obligation to support his or her stepchildren, as that burden is always determined to be the responsibility of the legal parents.
- Do I have to pay child support if my ex keeps me away from my kids? Yes. The issue of child support and the issue of visitation are two separate issues. Most child support orders are just that – orders from the court, which must be followed in order to comply with the law. Not doing so may result in charges of contempt of court. However, the same is also true of custody and visitation agreements – if your ex is keeping you away from your children even though you have joint custody or a visitation agreement then your ex has violated the court order, and you have every right to take the case back to court in order to fight for your parental rights.
The ins and outs of child support can be tricky to navigate on your own. The expertise and experience of a family law attorney can be a tremendous help in determining what is right in your case and protecting your parental rights and the rights of your family. Call our office for a free consultation, and we’ll discuss how our firm can help you with all your family law needs.