States calculate child support using one of two methods: the percentage of income model or the income share model. However, there are a few states that calculate child support based on a hybrid of both approaches. Parents who wish to file for child support should become familiar with the following methods of child support calculation.
A minority of the states still use the percentage model to calculate child support.
In the percentage model, the only income considered is that of the non-custodial parent. A court will calculate child support based on a percentage of the noncustodial parent's income. The percentage of income increases as the number of children who are considered in the child support hearing increases, but generally there is a maximum percentage of child support that may be considered in the calculation. Each state's percentage of income considered in a child support calculation varies.
Income Share Model
Most states calculate child support based on the income share model. In the income share model, the combined, adjusted incomes of both the custodial and noncustodial parents are considered in a child support calculation. The court will then arrive at a total support award and child support for each parent is determined based on the parent's share of the support award. The child support obligor is required to pay his/her fair share of the child support amount.
Deviation from Percentage or Income Share Model
Courts may deviate from the percentage or income share model for the following reasons:
- Extraordinary health care expenses
- Tremendous child care expenses such as education, day care or insurance
- A child's special needs
Calculating Child Support Money
Parents and families can estimate the amount that they owe by using a child support calculator, available online through state resources.
The average monthly child support payment, according to the 2010 Census Bureau Reports, is $430. While this is just an average, there are several state-specific child support calculators that can be used to estimate payments, as child support payments vary on a case-by-case basis. For example, in Texas, the process of calculating monthly child support includes entering income information whether an hourly or salaried employee. There are various other financial questions families will be prompted with regarding deductions, current child support, and more, to come up with an estimate.
How to Request Child Support Income
Parents and guardians can open a child support case through their local Division of Child Support Services, or similar organization, in their state. This step provides an application to fill out along with a possible fee depending on personal family circumstances. A support order is then enforced with the noncustodial parent to determine their living and working situation. Child support forms vary by the state through individual court systems and departments of human services. Information and guidelines for child support in the United States can be viewed, filled out, and/or printed online.
For more information about child support calculation methods, speak with a qualified attorney in the state and become familiar with the child support guidelines.