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How Does The Court Determine Child Support

How Does The Court Determine Child Support

Family law courts typically use two main tools to determine child support. The first tool is called the Child Support Worksheet. The second tool is the Child Support Guidelines. These two items are utilized to determine the amount of child support to order.

Child Support Guidelines

Child Support Guidelines aim to maintain a child's financial circumstances after parents divorce or separate. The guidelines examine the gross incomes of parents and number of children born to the parents to determine the appropriate amount of child support to award. Guidelines review expenses in making the child support award determination, like child care expenses associated with a parent working or looking for employment; extraordinary medical expenses; education expenses and health insurance costs for children. Guidelines analyze other factors, such as the frequency of visits that a non-custodial parent has with the child. If those visits occur often, then the non-custodial parent is responsible for paying a smaller amount of child support.

Online Child Support Calculators

Many jurisdictions have online child support calculators available to assist with performing the calculations associated with estimating child support awards. Of course, the family law court has the final say on the determination of the child support award.

Is There Any Room for Deviation from the Guidelines?

Some parents question whether the family law court has to adhere to Child Support Guidelines or whether there is any room for deviation due to individual facts and circumstances. As a general premise, the family law court has to follow the guidelines. The exception to this rule occurs in circumstances in which the family law court finds that it is unjust to strictly adhere to mandatory guidelines. In such circumstances, the family law court can make an alternative award of child support. When the family law court does not adhere to the guidelines, it must document why it made the deviation.

Illustrations of Permissible Deviations from Child Support Guidelines

The permissible deviations from the mandatory Child Support Guidelines are few and far between. There are some limited situations in which deviations are appropriate. For example, if the non-custodial parent purchases school clothes and supplies and assumes financial responsibility for extracurricular activity fees, then the child support amount ordered may be lowered. Similarly, if the non-custodial parent must assume a substantial amount of costs to facilitate visitation, such as airfare, hotels or long-distance phone charges, then the child support award may be lowered.