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.

Next Steps

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.

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11 thoughts on “How Much Child Support Is Too Much?”

  1. My ex has not paid support for over 2 years and when he was paying it was not even the correct amount and arrears just kept building. He also got a court order to pay back health bills (he was to pay half). Original support was 26% of earnings for the 2 kiddos plus 175.00 a month for health insurance I carried.
    Through all of this and dealing with my son full time,who is autistic, I forgot that health insurance was figured in. I no longer carry the health insurance because I had to quite my job in order for my son to meet the requirements of the WI autism wavier and recieve 40 hours of therapy a week. Do I have to pay that back? Will it be taken out of the arrears? Ty

  2. michael zinkiewitz sr

    not my kid but i have paid over 152,000 right out of my payroll .It supposed to stop at the age of 18 he is now 24 lives on colledge campus also works but the mother lies to the court saying he is incapacitated.How can you be incapacitated and also be a basketball coach as well as attend colledge and live on campuse.Also they took my pension for a kid that was born in 1992 and we were divorced in 1988 been denied peternity,statehear ing,child support reviewe.Iam not on the birth certificate nor does the kid have my last name.

    1. Your case from the 80’s is going to be too old to do anything about at this point in time. When mistakes like this are made, you need to get on it right away or you lose your chance, as unfair as it is. As for the child who is 24 and in college, the only way you can fight it is by showing proof that he is not incapacitated. This is going to require you forcing him into court, or forcing the court to order your son to get a psychological evaluation so that the judge can make a decision based on the evaluation.

  3. ConfusedFLGirl

    My fiance and I reside in FL. He is trying to get a downward mod because he’d lost his job and got one making less than when the initial order was set up. He has never had a review (CS was set 12 years ago) when his children were 5 and 21 months. The children are now 17 and almost 14. The Florida CSE offices say it can take UP TO 6 months for a review to happen. In the meantime, he is suffering, financially from having 80% of his take home pay being taking by the FL DOR. When he asks them for an update, he is told, his review is “in progress” and he just needs to wait for his day in court. We can’t afford an attorney, so my question is three-fold, does CS go up or down as children get older? Second, we get 90-100 days of shared parenting time, does that effect the CS payment? Finally, is there any way to expedite the process of the review/mod?

  4. Nicholas Whitmore

    My ex wife is taking my back to court for an increase in child support. According to the numbers, my child support may double and I am barely able to make the payments now. I have a mountain of debt that I am paying on (that was accrued during our marriage)and the courts do not seem to care that I cannot even afford food for myself at this point. She is also trying to get child care out of me, when she hires a babysitter during times that she needs to go to work, and I am able to take the kids (though she won’t let me). Is there something I can do here so I am not getting completely screwed over? I am on the verge of filing for bankruptcy.

  5. I’m currently paying more for my 2nd child support order than my 1st child support order. The 1st case is in NY and the 2nd is in Philadelphia. Is it possible for the 2nd case to be receiving a higher amount of support? I live in New York where cost of living is significantly higher than in Philadelphia. I also pay for both children medical. Thanks.

    1. Nicholas Baker

      It is possible for a second support order to be higher than the first ins some instances because all states calculate child support according to a different formula. Pointing out to the judge that your net income is lower because of your first child support order may give you the chance for a judge to allow you to modify child support below the statutory guidelines. This is known as a downward deviation in child support. Speak to our expert child support attorneys and find out.

  6. Benjamin Brazinski

    I am only allowed 6 weeks a year with my child as I live in different state than that of Florida.The ordered support that I pay causes my other two children to suffer and inhibits my ability to provide for my family. The original order included child care that is no longer needed since my daughter is in school. I think that Florida “time-share” laws have changed recently, can this help in getting a reduction in the amount of support that I am obligated to ?

    1. It absolutely can help. If you want more time with your child in Florida, you should petition the court to modify your visitation schedule and file a petition to modify your child support as well. With your daughter no longer needing child care because of her age and your financial situation at home being what it is, you may be able to convince a judge that these represent a “significant change in circumstances”, warranting a change. Speak to an expert custody and child support attorney and find out your rights.

  7. I’m told that military benifits can be garnished but military disability benifits cannot and not considered income its medical emergency and travel, I’m also told social security can issue the child a check, half of my check, Can I ask that that be child suport? Does the child get a check and they garnish my social security at the same time? I’m told that would be paying twice. This child is 15 and I’m told that back suport is retro from the point the mother fild with the court, which is about 2 months from the time I recieve court papers. I am retired and living off military disability, social security and USPS pension. What would I need an attorney to help me with? I don’t know this woman or her 15 year old son and don’t know whats happening. Anyone with info please respond to me at Thanks

    1. VA benefits can be counted as income for support purposes. This is serious, and is nothing to play around with. Do not believe the rumors that claim that VA Disability Benefits can not count as income for support purposes–they do count.

      In many states, child support is a formula: you pay a percentage of your net income as support, plus any arrears (back support that may be owed). The amount of arrears, depending on your state, is up for dispute, and can be fought based on specific factors according to statute.

      In other states, support amounts are determined on the “needs of the child” and the “ability to pay” by the non-custodial parent.

      An attorney that is skilled in support issues will typically: a.) fight the arrearage amount owed, and b.) fight to make sure that the support amount is not overly large where it will damage your ability to pay your own bills.

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