Child support is calculated and ordered when the court enters a judgment in one of the following cases: annulment, divorce, legal separation, or paternity. This is not an exclusive list of events in which the court may order child support. Generally, child support is expressed as a fixed amount of money that must be paid on a regularly occurring basis to support the minor child(ren).

The actual amount of child support will depend on the placement schedule between the parents and the parents’ gross incomes. In a primary placement scenario when the child resides primarily with one parent, child support is calculated by multiplying the paying parent’s gross income available for child support by the child support percentage provided by statute. The statutory child support percentages are 17% for one child, 25% for two children, 29% for three children, 31% for four children, and 34% for five or more children. For example, mother has primary placement of child and father’s gross monthly income is $2,000. In this example, father’s child support obligation would be $2,000 x 17% or $340 per month. Parents who have a shared or split/shared placement when there are more than one child will have child support calculated differently than in the scenario provided. A more detailed discussion of this topic will appear in a future blog post.

The child support amount may be affected by health care insurance cost. Usually each parent is responsible for one-half of the cost of health insurance for the child. Child support may be offset by the cost of health insurance, by reducing or increasing the child support amount. For example, mother has primary placement of child, father’s gross monthly income is $2,000, and father pays $50 per month for health insurance for child. In this example, father’s monthly child support obligation is $2,000 x 17% plus an offset for mom’s one-half obligation for the child’s health insurance being provided by father or $315 per month. In addition to the cost of health insurance for the child, variable expenses may be considered and determined when calculating child support. Variable expenses may include the cost of child care, tuition, a child’s special needs, and other activities that involve a substantial cost.

In some scenarios, a parent may be considered a low-income payor. Thus, the monthly child support obligation of the low-income payor for one child would be less than 17%. A low-income payor is considered someone who is at the 75% to 150% of the current federal poverty guideline. Additionally, the child support percentage is different for a high-income payor. Child support percentages for a high-income payor will be lower than the standard child support percentages listed above. For example, the child support percentage for one child is 14% for a high-income payor who makes more than $7,000 but not more than $12,200 per month.

As these examples illustrate child support can deviate from the statutory standard based on each family’s unique circumstance. Additionally, parents can devise their own child support or family support scheme. Future blog posts will address these and other topics related to child support.

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Amy Shapiro