If you’re preparing for divorce, you’re probably wondering – “How much is child support?”
If you’re preparing for divorce or merely curious, you want to understand how child support is calculated. You might be surprised by the amount deducted from your paycheck. You may also wonder what a reasonable cost is for monthly payments, and which parent spends the most.
We have answers to those questions here.
How Much is Child Support?
The court will consult the child support guidelines for their state to determine your child support obligation before making an official support order. Like any average, there are quite a few variables. Parents who are in a lower income bracket might not have enough gross income for paying child support, while others who are more well-off end up paying a higher monthly amount. Every state calculation takes into account your total monthly net resources.
Parent’s Pro-Rata Share
How much child support you pay also takes into account whether you are the non-custodial parent, how much income the other parent makes compared to you, and other factors such as whether you or the other parent will provide health insurance coverage for the children, and who will pay for educational expenses and other child care expenses.
The general rule is that the child support obligation is shared by both parents in proportion to their incomes, but there are a lot of other factors that go into how much each parent will actually pay.
Custodial Parent’s Income
In some cases, the custodial parent’s income can be imputed (or assumed) for child support purposes. This usually happens when the custodial parent is not working or is not working to their full potential. The court will look at factors like education and work history to determine how much gross income the custodial parent could be earning, and base child support on that amount.
Other Factors Affecting Child Support
There are other factors that might affect how much child support you pay, such as whether you have other children to support, whether you are paying spousal support (alimony), and your personal expenses. Some states also factor in the cost of living in each parent’s household when determining how much child support to award in a court order.
Example Child Support Calculation
In our example, the court starts by determining your “adjusted” gross income – this is your total income minus deductions for state taxes and business expenses – and multiplies it by the guideline percentage for the number of children involved.
For example: if your yearly salary is $15,000 and you have one child, you would be paying 17% of your income per year in child support–this comes out monthly to $212.50 or annually as $2,550.
Average Child Support Order
We have seen according to the 2010 Census Bureau Reports, the average monthly child support payment is $430. Again, this is just an average of the monthly amount of child support payments across the United States and should only be used as an estimate. Your situation is unique, and the amount the court determines will depend on your circumstances and financial resources.
To get a more accurate estimate of how much you might owe in child support, speak with an experienced family law attorney in your state. They will be familiar with how child support is calculated where you live and can help ensure you are paying (or receiving) the appropriate amount of support for your children.
If you’re interested in an estimate of what your support payments should be, use our child support calculator.
And for more information on how you can better understand the child support laws and regulations in your state, visit our state resources section.