Child Support—How Much?
The pressing questions about child support are:
How and when does one get a child support order?
much should be paid for child support?
Where can I find support guidelines for my state?
Special advice for California cases
can help establish or enforce a child support order?
1. How and when?
you have minor children, then as part of getting a judgment (or decree) of
divorce, legal separation or annulment, you’ll need to settle the amount that will
be paid for child support. Unless the parents can agree to an amount, it will
be settled by a judge after a hearing or trial in court.
2. How much?
don’t have to spend even one more minute wondering or arguing about this question as the amount of child support
has already been settled by guidelines in every state.
child support guidelines. Every state now has child support guidelines that define the amount
any judge in the state must award if the matter has to be decided in court. Parents
can agree to any reasonable amount in a written settlement agreement, but if
the matter of child support ends up in court, it will be decided according the
child support guidelines for your state based on financial data proved to the
judge by financial documents or other admissible evidence.
addition to guideline support, parents must arrange for health care for the
child if it is available through the employment of either parent, and parents
must share health care cost not covered by insurance equally (50/50) unless
agreed otherwise by the parents.
financial data. Guidelines
are based on income of the parents and, in some sates, certain expenses that can
be deducted. A judge can only consider financial data that can be demonstrated
by admissible documents (pay stubs and financial statements), so you can’t
expect one parent to agree to financial claims of the other parent that can’t
be supported by credible evidence.
show each other your financial records and apply the data to the guideline,
there’s really nothing left to argue about. Why waste the money it costs to go
to court if you already know what the judge will order?
income. If it can
be shown in court that a parent is capable of earning more at a full-time job when
such jobs are available, but chooses to work less or work at a lower-paying job,
a judge could decide to set child support based on the amount the parent could
be earning rather than actual income. For example, if a qualified mechanic
lives where such jobs are available but chooses to make a bare living as a
freelance writer, that parent should not be surprised if a judge figures
support based on what a mechanic earns. In other words, you have to do your
best for your child(ren).
3. Get the official guidelines for your state
California is a special case—see the section below.
For all other states, you should get the official child support guidelines for your state. For links to official child support
information for every state, click here.
Share the guideline information with the other parent and show each other your
financial records. You would have to do this in court if you end up there, so you might as well do it voluntarily without going to court. Apply the guidelines to data that can be documented and you’ve got the amount of support a judge would award. There is really nothing to argue about.
California is a special case
California guidelines are so incredibly complicated, all lawyers and judges use
a $500 computer program to figure the correct guideline amount
and lawyers charge a stiff fee each time they run the program. Most people want
several runs, based on a variety of “what if” possibilities or when there are future changes in
income or deductions. The results of a program cannot be used in court unless it
has been certified accurate by the CA Judicial Council, so do not bother using
an online program or any other service that has not been certified.
you get what you need, we created CalSupport,
very affordable professional-quality software that has been certified by the
Judicial Council, yet costs only $34.95 and is just as powerful as the
professional software, only it is better: easier to use and easier to
understand. For more about how to get the correct amount for guideline child
support in California or for a trial version of CalSupport, click
Cautions for every state
only information and tools found on the official site for your state because you can’t be sure that
information found on a private site is current or complete.
not use online calculators on private sites as you can’t be sure they are accurate. Our own CalSupport for California cases (above) is an exception, as it has been certified by the State of California since 1995. The online calculators for other states that we have seen on private sites have been incomplete and lack adequate instructions and guidance.
For example, they might tell you to enter the “net income” for each parent
without telling you how “net income” is defined in your state. Many states have
a complex set of definitions for that figure. Many calculators do not include
various deductions or exceptions that the state guidelines include.
can help establish and enforce child support orders?
state has an office charged with responsibility for establishing and collecting
child support. If you have questions or want help with child support, this is
the first place to call. If they are very busy, it might take some time to get
assistance, but call and find out what they do and how they can help you. To
view a table of links to official child support enforcement agencies for each
here. Some states have their more than one agency that can help
you with establishing a child support order, so also call your county court
clerk’s office and ask them for the name of the local office that helps people with
child support issues.