When parents divorce, they should be aware of their child support rights. Child support payments help custodial parents maintain a certain quality of life for their children. Parents use this money to purchase food, clothing, school supplies, medical care, and other items to help their children live happy, healthy lives. Parents going through the divorce process often wonder how much child support they will receive.

Child Support Guideline Formulas

The Federal Child Support Enforcement Act includes guidelines for child support formulas in each state. The amount of support ordered in one state may be very different from that ordered in another. A lawyer for child support cases can explain the formula applicable to the state and will help a client ensure that he or she is getting the correct child support entitlement based on the situation.

Each state uses it’s own version of a child support formula to determine whether one parent should pay some amount of child support to the other parent. And there are situations in every state that allow a judge to move that amount up or down (called an ‘upward deviation’ or a ‘downward deviation’). Ordinarily, the parent with the majority of parenting time will be the parent that gets child support. When parents split parenting time equally (50/50), many states do not impose any child support calculation unless there are special circumstances such as a large income disparity between the parents or a special needs child type situation. A large disparity in income would be one parent earning $50,000/year and another parent earning $150,000 or more per year (although it could be lower than this or much higher – there isn’t a rule). The reason for this is to get the child’s living arrangements somewhat similar, even in a 50/50 shared custody type situation. But, for the most part, child support is ordered to be paid to the parent that has a larger share of parenting time (sometimes specifically overnight parenting time even).

Different Child Support Formulas

There are 3-main types of child support formulas used, depending on the state in which a person lives:

  1. Percentage of Income Formula;
  2. Melson Formula; or
  3. Income Shares Model.

Percentage of Income Formula

When a state uses the ‘Percentage of Income’ formula for calculating child support, the court will normally take a percentage of the child support payor’s net income and times it by a percentage. For example, a state might make their percentage guideline support amount be 20% for 1-child, 28% for 2-kids, 32% for 3-kids, and 40% for 4-kids. Keep in mind that a person’s net income is NOT the same as what is on a persons tax returns, especially if that person is self employed or is part owner of a business. The net formula calculation takes into account different ‘write-offs’ than the IRS does for factoring tax amounts owed. Because of this, a child support attorney is needed even though it looks relatively simple at first glance.

Melson Formula

When a state uses the ‘Melson Formula’ for calculating child support, the court has a lot of work to do. This is because the Melson Formula is the most complex way of calculating child support. Only a few states follow this method of child support calculation, primarily because of its complexity. The Melson Formula takes into account one-factor that no other formula uses: the noncustodial parents basic financial needs. No other child support formula takes this into account absent a judges discretion in extreme cases. The Melson Formula takes into account a formula to determine how much money it would take to financially support a child if the parents were together and not split up or divorced. This amount is based off the combination of both parties income. The formula then adjusts depending on each parents percentage of that combined income and the standard of living of each parent and the percentage of parenting time each parent has with the child. Finally, the Melson Formula ensures that each parent can meet their own basic needs (by factoring in reasonable bills, child-related expenses, etc.).

Income Shares Model

When a state uses the ‘Income Shares Model’ for calculating child support, it uses a formula that is similar to the Melson formula only without the extremely complicated factor of determining each parents own basic needs to pay their own living expenses. The vast majority of states use the Income Shares Model of child support. The Income Shares Model of child support combines both parents incomes into one number and then uses a formula to determine ow much financial support is needed for each child. That amount is then allocated to each parent based on each parents percentage of the combined income. For example: if dad earns $40,000/year, mom earns $60,000/year, the combined income amount is $100,000/year. The percentages are 40% dad and 60% mom. So, when the calculation is completed, a portion of the 40% or 60% will be used, depending on which parent is the custodial parent. This same percentage sometimes even determines how much of other expenses each parent should pay – such as medical or school costs.

Factors a Court Can Also Use

A family court judge considers several things when determining the amount of child support. Parental custody and the ability of a parent to pay child support are major factors, but ability to pay only comes into play in extreme circumstances or if the Melson Formula is used. If one parent has sole custody, or the majority of parenting time, child support is typically paid only by the other parent (the noncustodial parent). However, ins some instances, if parenting time is close to equal (40+% by the noncustodial parent), and there is a very large income disparity, the noncustodial parent might owe child support to the other parent. this is because the public policy behind the whole idea of child support is that parents have an inherent duty to financially support their children. This is a rare occurrence though.

The standard of living experienced by the child prior to divorce and custodial parent needs and income are also considered in some circumstances, such as the Melson formula or again, under extreme situations (like disability of a parent or very large income differences between the parents). However, the court recognizes that it may not be possible to maintain the same standard of living once parents are separated.

Exchanging Financial Information

Regardless of which formula a state uses for calculating child support, each parent must complete a financial statement detailing expenses and income and submit it to the family court (and exchange it with each other or each other’s attorneys). This will help the court estimate monthly child support obligations using a state-specific child support calculator. The court will subtract mandatory deductions like income taxes from gross income and may add cost of living increases. If one or both parents disagree with the final support decision or experience a change in financial situation, the parents may go back to court with a request to raise or lower child support. Child support orders are never ‘permanent’, even if they are called permanent, because they can be modified whenever a substantial change in circumstances arises such as large increase or decrease in income, expenses, or the loss of a job.

Child Support Questions?

Since child support rights vary from state to state, divorcing parents should consult with a child support lawyer. Child support lawyers are highly-trained legal professional that will help determine the most suitable solution for the entire family – and you! The ideal result is the correct amount of child support being ordered that takes into account the proper deductions and child-related expenses. Because of the complexity of all the child support formulas out there, a child support attorney is often needed.

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42 thoughts on “How Much Child Support Should I Be Getting?”

  1. I have a 12 year old daughter, and I got sole custody because he is a domestic violent person. he pays alimony for the house and bills etc.. but I don’t get child support. is that because I have sole custody. I’ve been a stay at home mom for 30 years. trying to support the two of us. with out having child support. I’m I the one that takes care of child support and not him. I’m confused. know one explained it to me. I can’t beat his income he makes.

  2. Me and my husband still married we been separated for 2 years we have a 4 year old daughter together and when he abandon me and my daughter I got pregnant with twins we got back together and he abandon us again I wasn’t working I was a housewife now he isn’t helping me with anything I’m trying to put him on child support right now what should I do can u please help me

  3. I don’t know much into depth about child support, but I hope it’s something I won’t have to deal with. I can see how having a lawyer help out with all of this stuff, would be really helpful, because I wouldn’t know what to do. I thought it was interesting that every state has their own child support formulas they follow. Thanks for the info!

  4. Virginia Rodriguez

    I need help please. I have 3 children by my soon to be ex husband. He has been paying 200.00 a week since we sperated for child support.Now he has another child with his new girlfriend an is complaining about not having money for his new family. He never comes an sees my 3 kids or even calls them. We agreed to get a divorce with out a lawyer as long as I let him keep his house an new cars. He said if I take him for more child support he would go back to mexico an leave the kids with nothing. I cant afford to work because of the coast of child care an the 800 a month is barely meeting the bills. What do I do?

  5. My husband has custody of his daughter with supervised visitation only. I have been with my husband for 10 years we have been married for 8. We live in FL I’m wonder what happens to my stepdaughter in the event something happens to my husband? I have had her since she was 2 her mother moved out of state when she was 4 and returned when she was 11. She rarely calls or even sees her. Would I get to keep my daughter or where would she go, god forbid something happen to my husband?

    1. Nicholas Baker

      Difficult situation. Setting up a guardianship plan with an estates and trusts attorney is a good first step. Florida allows for many ways for step-parents to obtain rights children in these types of situations, but they are confusing and complex laws. Find out how to make sense of the noise by contacting us.

  6. I am being treated for bipolar/shcizotypal disorders. I have two boys. One also has bipolar. We are all in proper treatment. Several things are pointing to divorce but my husband says he won’t walk and if I walk out he will refer to my illness and imply I am not rational. I want my children, he admits he hasn’t been involved with them. He has money in different accounts that I have no access to. How do I find out our assets? I was also was declared disabled in 2010 and draw ssi but he is guardian of that. I have since built up a Miche Purse business as a rep. Not much but something. I don’t want things to be hateful,it’s just over. I need to transfer guardianship to someone else. Any advice will help.

    1. The most important thing to do is get your mental health in order and it sounds like you are working hard at doing so. Many people think that saying “she has bipolar” or “he’s crazy” or “she has mental problems and is medicated” is their silver bullet to winning custody, as he may think as well. The problem with this mode of thinking is this: everyone has people in their lives – spouses, children, relatives, close friends, event themselves that are dealing with mental illness. This goes for judges as well, and if he makes negative comments about your situation, the judge may be dealing with the same thing with his or her spouse and take offense to his heartless comments. Just make sure you approach things carefully and get started right away. Our team of local family law attorneys will find out what assets exist in the marriage and will help you find new guardianship as well. If money is your worry, it is possible to force him to pay for all or a portion of your attorney fees as well. Give us a call right away and get the family law help and advice you deserve.

  7. I have a jerk of an ex trying to take me for child support I have 2 children with him he lives at home makes 16 an hour I don’t work right now going through ovr program which they help people with learning disability for job training cause it hard for me to get a job for my learning disability that I have I am also receiving public assistance an I am also pregnant to my current fiancé I just wanted to know what are his chances of getting anything from me when I don’t have an income besides 100 a month for cleaning

    1. It sounds like you are in a very difficult financial situation, but the fact remains that both parents have an obligation to support their children and there is no excuse or argument against doing so. It may be difficult to get a job that pays substantial money as it sounds like he is making, but a judge will still say that there is no excuse for you not doing something to take care of your kids properly. He stands a very good chance of getting some type of child support entered and it would be a good idea to work proactively at getting any type of job that you can, be it fast food, landscaping, house cleaning, etc.,because the last thing you want to happen is making a judge get upset with you. Good luck, keep motivated, and stay positive!

  8. My son is in my full custody and his dad is in jail for molesting his other child. Not mine but by another woman. My son wasn’t touched. How do I go about getting his parental rights stripped? Is full custody going to let me move to another state? Should my husband adopt my son before we move out of state?

    My daughter is in my care but I don’t have full custody of her. Her father has been in and out of jail for several years. It was one time date gone bad (rape) and he got away with it. I filed for food stamps and they required to know if the father had the financial means to help with our bills. A paternal test was taken and it was proven that he was the father but it also meant that he now had the right to be in my daughters life. I will die if I see that man hold my child in his arms. He has breaking and entering on his rap sheet and that is just on page 1. I am terrified to go to court. What if he wins? I live in Colorado. He has had NO contact with my daughter. I know I should be putting his daughter in there but I think you can understand why I don’t. Anyways, he has had no contact, he hasnt tried to make contact, he had to be hunted down to start the child support process, and he has a F4’s and M2’s on his rap sheet. I don’t know what that means. Its been over 6 years but NOW he’s threatening to file for wanting to see her if I ask for more child support since he is now out of prison and his parole is almost done. I’ve been in hiding from this man for 6 and a half years. I want my daughter and I to be free from this man but I’m terrified that I don’t have enough of a case to actually win in court. I will die if he gets the right to see her. He will ruin everything in her life. My husband is the only man she has ever known to be her dad. He’s been there since day one and this whole situation, if it goes wrong, could mess up her life completely. Im scared and I don’t know what to do. Help…please.

    1. Two extremely dysfunctional males are involved in your life and you have kids with them, that is a painful situation. As far as your sons father is concerned, it would be relatively easy to win a Removal case and move out of the state of Colorado based on his molesting of another child. They may or may not suspend all contact between him and the child, but it would be extremely limited and supervised or none at all. Your daughters father sounds like a real problem as well. for what its worth, you need to get your life straight, make sure you are off any type of public aid, and do things on the straight and narrow. Realistically, a court, unless of a serious crime or allegation of rape, etc., will give a father some type of parenting time, whether it be supervised every once in awhile or via telephone. Give us a call, you absolutely cannot do this alone – get started right away with a free child custody consultation.

  9. I was ordered to pay 800 a month when I lived in FL and my ex lived in NC. I returned to NC and she agreed to let me get the kids 50% of the time for 2 years, but would never but it in writing or go to court. she is now moving to SC and i’m moving back to FL. She just turned me in for back child support. I really need some help… I no longer have the same high paying job during the 1st order and in another week will be without a job. am I screwed?

  10. Question; i have not been EVER late in paying cash for child support, when my wages were garnished for the CS payment, my soon to be EX did not mention the other cash payments I have paid her. In short, i have over paid! And there was a lag on the AG office because again my soon to be ex did not tell the AG that i have been paying her cash, i motified her and notified AG immediately, she promised me that she will furnish the AG an affidavit that i am up to date in payment but she purposely delayed this affidavit for months! So AG placed a bad report on my credit which deatroyed my score of 805 to 530 in 3 months! She finally furnished it but the damaged to my score is done!

    1. How can i get back the overpayment?
    2. Can she be penalized for doing such malicious intent in deTroying my credit score?

    1. Family Law Advice

      First of all, never, NEVER NEVER child support in cash!!! All men out there need to know this, if you pay in cash, there is no proof that you made a payment and the courts will not believe you! Use a check, a cashiers check – anything except cash payment! Since you broke the cardinal rule, unfortunately, you will need to fight it out with the credit bureaus rather than the courts. It is difficult, if not impossible, to get money back for an over payment. Contact the credit bureaus and dispute the bad report and eventually, it will go away, but it will take some time.

  11. I have 2 children with the custodial mother. I have since remarried, and have 2 biological children with my 2nd wife. How would the court determine my child support in order to not adversely effect the quality of life for the 2 children living under my provision?

    1. Depending on what state you live in, this is not easy to do. In states where a straight percentage of income is used to calculate child support, most courts will enforce that percentage amount strictly, with little room for deviation unless you can show that your family will suffer undue hardship. In states where the amount of child support is based on the needs of the children, you will have the opportunity to present your current bills and expenses to the court to help determine what is a fair allocation of money. The only way to ensure that your family is taken care of properly is to get the help of an expert child support attorney or at least get a free consultation from one.

    1. Many parents believe that when the other parent is not paying child support and holding up their end of the bargain that they can deny visitation or phone call to that parent. This is absolutely not true. Custody and child support are two distinct things, neither one has anything to do with the other. Regardless of whether the other parent pays child support, you still must honor the visitation agreement that the judge entered. It doesn’t sound fair, but that is normally what the law requires. In fact, in many states now, visitation interference is actually a crime. Honor your end of the bargain, and go to court to enforce your child support order.

  12. I live in CO and have custody of my 3 year old. The mother has never paid court ordered support or exercised her visitations (1 afternoon per week) since the hearing 1-1/2 years ago. Have an excellent opportunity out of state but mother refuses to provide signed permission for me to move permanently with my child.

    1. you are going to need an attorney to help you out with this. Any time you consider “removal”, which is when you you want to move the children out of the state, you must follow very specific guidelines and obtain court approval. Without an attorney, there is no way you will get this court approval unless the mother is a danger to the health and welfare of the children. An attorney, however, will file petitions and motions on your behalf and will probably have to continue to a hearing on the matter at which point, when all the evidence of her not seeing her kids comes out, the judge may grant the removal. Don’t play this loose, get an attorney immediately or you stand no chance at success.

  13. Patricia Williams

    I’m a grandmother raising my grandson and i was wondering if i was able to get child support for my grandson ? My grandson has medical problem’s and the father isn’t in his and his mother is sometime’s.I do have guardianship of hi i care for him 100%. I just think it’s only fair that i get help since they don’t won’t take responsibility for him.

    1. Absolutely you can. If you are the legal guardian, you should be receiving support from the child’s parents. Contact us immediately and we will put you in touch with the help you need. You need to file a petition for temporary and permanent support and you must allege specific facts and statute, so contact us soon.

  14. how much back child support can I get,we separated in 2001,and we divorced in 2007 I’ve got child support from him from 2007 till now,can I get child support for those 6 years that I didnt get that child support?

    1. It is possible to get back child support that may be owed to you if your ex did not pay. Normally, the way most courts look at a case like yours is when was the initial support case opened. If it was truly opened back during the divorce, as would be the norm, and he refused to pay up until the last few years, you may be able to get a judgment against him where he will be forced to pay extra money on top of his current support amount which will tick down the arrearage he owes. In some states, this judgment/arrearage amount is also subject to interest, so the amount he may owe may increase based on that as well. Because he probably owes you thousands of dollars, you should hire an attorney who can properly assess the amount. It will be worth it in the end because you may be able to collect thousands of dollars in back child support! Good luck!

    1. Florida is different from Nevada as far as how child support is calculated. In Nevada, for 2 children, you should be receiving 25% of the non-custodial parents net income. Florida does not use a percentage of income basis. Florida, like some other states, follows the “equitable” amount of child support, based on the needs of the child, the age of the child, and many other factors. The only way to find out what you should be receiving here is to contact an attorney in Florida and have your individual case reviewed by a professional. That being said, if there are still ties to the state of Nevada (ie., the father still lives there), your child support case is still governed by the Nevada courts. If he does not live in Nevada, you may be able to move your support case to Florida, but only an attorney can tell you if it is a good idea or not.

  15. IM A FATHER AND I HAVE CHILD SUPPORT TAKEN OUT BI WEEKLY FROM MY CHECK can they take child support from a other job that i some times work as a perdiem worker

    1. It depends. Child support is based on one of two factors, depending what state you live in. In some states, it is based on a percentage of how much money you earn, example: 20% of your Net income for 1-child. In other states, there is no percentage amount, it is based on the “best interests and needs of the child.” If the second job is steady income, a percentage amount may apply to that income as well as your main full-time job. If it is based on the needs of the child, chances are they have picked a number and are deducting it from all sources of income to meet that amount. Child support is difficult to work with unless all facts and circumstances are known. Your best bet is to contact a child support attorney to provide more details on your specific case. We can connect you to a lawyer for a fast and free consultation.

    1. Generally, no. It is unlikely that a court would “impute” the income from your exes new spouse to raise the amount of child support that he pays. There are some instances where it may go up, however, and you should speak with an attorney to find out what affect it may have in your state. for example, if you live in a state that pays based on a percentage of “net income”, whether he now falls into a different income bracket with his new wife’s income, may have an affect on his child support amount. The only way to know for sure is to speak with an attorney for a fast and free child support evaluation. Good luck!

  16. i have a 1yr child, I only have the father’s address, he doesn’t have residents papers or social. What can I do to get child support.

    1. This is a tricky situation you have found yourself in but not without hope. If you know where he lives, he can be served with the proper summons, complaint for parentage and petition for child support. Once your lawyer has him served by the sheriff or a private detective agency, he will have to show up in court and provide information on where he works. Contacting an attorney on our site is vital to your success. Please fill out the form on the side of this apge and get started immediately and get what you deserve!

  17. I have a 2yr old daughter in GA and I only been working for two months but every week I buy pullups snacks clothes or whats help with meds, but I am told by the mother if I dont place the money in her hand of 50 dollars a week she will take child support out on me I dont fe er l its rught what should I do as a father

    1. Your best bet is to hire an attorney to make sure that child support is done right directly from the start. Without an attorney, it is very possible that your child’s mother will be able to get an order against you forcing you to pay child support back to the date of your child’s birth. And even though you have only been working for a short time, it is possible that they will order it based on that amount of income.

      Without an attorney, you stand little, if any, chance at fighting this back support amount. Keep in mind as well, that cash is as good as not making a payment at all (and in some instances and in some states, buying presents or diapers, etc., is no good either) because there is no proof that you did it! The best thing you can do is keep a good records, only pay with a check or a money order and keep all copies of the returned checks and money orders in a file at your house.

      Contact an attorney immediately or you will find yourself, years down the road, fighting an arrearage of back support in the tens of thousands of dollars–get started immediately by going here: http://www.familylawrights.net and filling out the small form on the side of the page for an attorney consultation.

  18. my daughter no longer go’s to school she is 18 and still lives here with me.we live in ny.my ex wants to stop support and insurance

    1. In most states, once your child stops attending school and is over the age of 18, child support ends even though your child may still be living with you. If your child is 18 and still enrolled in high-school, most states will continue to force the non custodial parent to pay child support to you. Your best bet is to connect with an attorney on this site and get some real help in your area.

  19. hey my name is heather henderson,
    my old man ex girlfriend is try to get him for back time but he was giving her money and buying stuff for the baby what should he do?
    they are try to get him to pay 300 a month he was in jail and they did not take him to court is there anything we can do about it?
    he started to pay but she still aint letting him see the boy.one reason she said that he is with me..i dont think that right because she has another man living with her and the boy..what can i do about this? i mean i coach bal and eveything i babysit for a living so how can you say i can be around the boy but he can? we just dont know what to do with all this?

    1. The problem with this situation is that without proof of the payments or things purchased, the court will treat it as though it never happened. It is possible for an attorney to fight a portion of the back child support that they will claim is owed, but it is difficult to do, and you need help. A home study evaluation and going through the financial numbers is the best way to begin fighting for your rights. Get help soon.

  20. A common questions people ask regarding visitation is regarding pick ups and drop offs of the children. Who is supposed to pick up or drop off the kids for visitation? This depends on what your parenting agreement says. You don’t have a parenting agreement? Get one–hire an attorney immediately, it is absolutely necessary to protect your rights. In most situations, one party drops off the child and the other parent picks up the child, this way it is a fair situation. Speak with a lawyer by filling out the form on this page for free!

  21. I have 2 kids with the same man. How much child support should he be paying me? He gives me only $100 every month, and he even forgets to pay that sometimes. Can someone let me know how much child support I should be getting? Thank you.

    1. Hi Dimitra. Well, there is no easy answer to your question, how much child support should you be getting. Depending on what state you live in, there are different rules. For example: in Illinois, your children’s father would be required by statute to pay 28% of his NET (take home) salary to you for child support purposes. But in other states, such as Florida, the amount is determined on the children’s’ actual needs and their best interests. Fill out the form on this page so we can evaluate your situation in more detail! Its the best way to find out how much child support you should be receiving!

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