How Do You Determine the Amount of Child Support? The amount of child support is set by the custody agreement and is required by law. Child support is intended for the benefit of the child, and usually pays for the basic necessities such as: Food, housing and clothing; Health insurance and medical care; and Educational expenses. Child support is not intended to be used for the benefit of either parent; instead, it is the child or children who should benefit primarily from the support amounts. Also, child support is intended for the provision of basic necessities, not luxury items or items that are not necessary for the child’s upbringing. Child support determinations involve a complex process that considers several factors in relation to the child. All determinations are made with the child’s best interests in mind, which has standards that can vary from state-to-state.
Courts generally require each parent to complete a financial statement before making a decision on child support. In the financial statement, the parent must detail his or her monthly income and expenses. Based on the financial information and the amount of time each parent spends with the child, the Court uses a standard formula to determine the child support amount. While most child support payment arrangements are intended to be set for long periods of time, they can sometimes be adjusted or changed, depending on the situation. Payment of child support can be required of all parents (fathers or mothers, or parents in a same sex union) regardless of whether they are married or not. Failure to pay child support is a common issue that many families face. In such cases, the court may need to intervene to collect the missing payments amounts, known as “child support arrears”.
Before deciding how much child support a parent should pay to support his or her child, it is necessary to determine the child support obligation that each parent has to fulfill to receive payment. Also, each parent will also have a legal obligation to pay his or her fair share of the costs incurred in supporting a child, such as the amount of education expenses, medical expenses, or even the cost of long-term care and help with transportation. Child support obligations are commonly divided into two main types: established and supplemental.
An established child support obligation requires the obligor to pay support for a child he or she legally and biologically has. A supplemental child support obligation does not require the obligor to pay any support for a child that he or she does not legally have or legally have the right to support. Thus, a supplemental child support obligation is usually referred to as a “legal” child support obligation. In fact, both types of child support are legally enforced by the law and can be collected by the court in a number of ways. These methods for collecting child support include: enforcing the underlying legal child support order.
Another method for collecting child support is called the “last chance” court order. The legal-obligation level of support was increased by the law of November 21, 2001, which caps the amount of support a parent can receive for a child at a certain level (called the “cap”) each time he or she does not make child support payments. A legal-obligation level of support is set, and child support awards will increase with the progress of the obligor in making child support payments. When child support payments cannot be made due to such economic conditions, the court will order the obligor to pay the child support to the other parent. This will then be added to the amount the other parent is currently paying to support the child. For more information, see our section on child support arrears. Child support amounts are usually set based on the previous support amount in the “protective order”.