Last updated: 10/18/2022
By law, a non-custodial parent must pay a monthly amount of money to the non-custodial parent called child support to help cover childcare expenses incurred by the custodial parent. Agreements for child support may be negotiated out of court or a court may issue an order for child support. Whether child support is ordered in a divorce case or in a case of unmarried parents, the question of how much child support is too much gets asked all the time. The short answer can be depressing: too much doesn’t (except in limited circumstances) exist. Get a free consultation to find out more.
Who Gets Child Support?
Typically, the parent who has the majority of parenting time (custodial parent) will get child support from the other parent. The custodial parent is the parent with primary physical custody of the child (this is sometimes called the majority of parenting time, in states that no longer use the term “custody”). This parent has primary responsibility for the daily care of a child who lives with him or her the majority of the time. If parents have joint custody, both are considered custodial parents, but one may have to pay child support, particularly if the income gap between the two is wide. When determining whether a parent is entitled to child support, practical and legal issues are also considered which is where the main answer to the question of how much child support should get paid in the first place.
How Much Child Support Should Be Paid?
This varies from state to state, with the majority of states using some type of “income sharing” formula to determine the combined net income of each party and then taking into account the amount of parenting time each parent has with the child or children. Each state uses a unique formula to calculate child support, but all states consider several common factors when making their formulas: the financial needs of the child, the income of the custodial parent and parent designated to pay child support, the needs of the custodial parent, and the ability of the other parent to pay child support, are several criteria that are commonly evaluated. The standard of living of the child prior to divorce or separation may also be considered – especially when additional amounts like extracurricular expenses are concerned.
The child support formulas in most states, once calculated, are just a math equation. They do not take into account that new truck payment, your penchant for McDonald’s every day for lunch, or expensive Starbucks coffee every morning. They are written in a way that is meant to provide for a stable living environment at the custodial parents home. At times, this makes it impossible for the noncustodial parent to continue driving that new car or living in an overly expensive house or apartment. But the courts don’t care about that, so making that argument will only make the judge more angry at you for trying to get sympathy. How much child support should be paid is a calculation, that’s what you will hear.
Extra Child Related Expenses
Yes, you read that correctly. There are likely additional expenses that a noncustodial parent will have to pay in addition to their child support payment. This might include 50% of health expenses, prescriptions, sports teams or field trips. The court’s goal is to make the child’s life as close to the same as if the parents were living together and combining incomes (even though this isn’t possible). How much child support is too much is the question that gets asked whenever a noncustodial parent finds out about having to pay for these expenses also. The answer, as before, is that there is no number – the court will make you pay or you could be held in contempt of court and go to jail.
Modification of Child Support
If a parent believes that the amount of child support is not correct, a modification request can be made. This would be done through the filing a Motion that sets a court date and forces all parents to bring financial documents and their parenting schedule to court for a re-calculation. This might be done if someone loses a job, if a child has special needs, or if someone gets a new higher paying job. Even if both parents agree to the adjustment, a judge must approve it. If the other parent does not agree to the change, a court hearing may be requested. Courts typically do not agree to raise or lower child support unless the requesting party can prove that a change in circumstances occurred.
Temporary child support modifications may also be made. These may occur if the child experiences a medical emergency, the parent receiving the support payments is going through temporary hardship, or the paying parent is temporarily unable to make payments due to situations like illness or loss of a job. Cost of living increases may also be built into child support orders or agreements. How much child support is paid might be changed should one of these temporary situations apply.
During child support negotiations, parents are typically required to document their financial situation, including monthly expenses and income. They should be aware of their child support rights so they do not receive or pay more or less than necessary. Because a rigid formula is used, a divorce attorney should be able to provide an initial free consultation and let you know your rights. How much child support ends up being ordered is up to that calculation, and maybe some negotiating by your lawyer. Get your financial affairs in order and speak with a professional before proceeding on your own.