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What factors courts consider when determining child support

In a previous post here we discussed child support in terms beyond the basic necessities, and how non-custodial parents may be responsible for such costs. Now we will take a look at how child support payments are calculated by the courts when a child support plan is first established.

The first factor that must be considered is the type of custody that each parent has with their child. If it is joint custody arrangement, child support payments are determined by how much time each parent spends with the child, as well as how much each parent earns. A percentage is then determined based on those factors.

If one parent has sole custody over a child, the calculations are different. Although certain factors vary by state, federally mandated guidelines under the Child Support Enforcement Act help establish certain criteria that are followed by all states.

As is the philosophy throughout the family court system, it is paramount that the child's best interests be met when establishing child support payments. Costs associated with the child, including but not limited to: medical costs including insurance and special needs; education and day care; clothing; food; and living situation, are all considered. The courts consider a child's previous standard of living prior to the divorce or separation as well.

Courts will also look at both the income of the parent who has child custody, as well as the income of the parent who will pay the child support. Courts look at the net income of the parents. This means that certain expenses, such as taxes and existing obligations of child support, are taken into account.

Source:, "How to Calculate Child Support", Accessed June 30, 2015

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