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The factors used to calculate child support payments are set by law. To calculate each parent's child support obligation the law generally applies each parent's income, including wages, assets such as stocks and bonds, welfare benefits, etc., and the standard of living of the child before the divorce. In certain cases, however, extraordinary needs of the child may be considered and deviations from the guidelines may be allowed. In most states where the court deviates from the guidelines, the judge is supposed to explain the reasons for the deviation in the order.
The amount of a child support award is more than a question of the child's bare necessities. If the child has a wealthy parent, that child is entitled to, and therefore needs something more than the bare necessities of life. Where the supporting parent enjoys a lifestyle that far exceeds the custodial parent's living standard, child support must to some degree reflect that more opulent lifestyle. This is so even though, as a practical matter, the child support payments will incidentally benefit others in the custodial household whom the other parent has no obligation to support
Child support is a matter of state law and each state has their own system for calculating the payment amount. There are three basic models though that each state falls under:
Child support orders generally expire upon becoming a legal adult, which usually consists of turning 18 years of age or graduation from high school whichever comes later, or if the child has married, acquired an emancipation order or enlisted in the military.
Though every state does not require child support after graduation from high school some states do require support payments to continue if the child attends college. These states include: Alabama, Alaska, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee and Washington.
The inability of a parent to pay their child support order because they cannot work will not excuse them from the order. Missed payments will accrue as arrears even if a parent is in jail, in the hospital or any other situation which does not allow them to work. When the parent is able to work they will be required to pay back the arrears.
Every state treats child visitation and custody separately from the obligation to pay child support. If a parent is not granted visitation by the court or if the other parent interferes with a visitation or custody order the parent may not protest by refusing to pay their child support payments.
A child support order is entered based on the parents' current income levels. A parent may not unilaterally reduce or stop their child support payments because of a loss of income or additional expenses. If a parent feels that their current child support payment is too high they may ask the court to modify the order. Until a modification order is entered the original child support amount is still in effect. Likewise, a parent may ask the court to increase a parent's child support payment because of added income or decreased expenses.
A non-custodial parent may be required to pay part of the cost of their child's day care if the custodial parent uses day care to go to work. Because the employment of the custodial parent increases the amount of income used to support the child both parents benefit from the cost of child care. Thus, this cost may be divided between the parents (usually 50% each). The parent who actually pays for the child care receives payment from the other parent.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified child support lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local child support attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.