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Child Support: How Much Do I Have to Pay?

Child support is one of the key issues that must be decided in a divorce because children are always entitled to have financial support from both their mother and from their father. To ensure that every child gets the support that he or she needs, the courts will generally use a standard formula in order to determine the appropriate amount of child support that must be paid.

How are Child Support Payments Determined?

The formula for determining how much child support must be paid is a standard formula that takes into account several key factors including:

  • Your actual earnings as well as (in some cases) your earning potential. Your earning potential is usually considered if there is evidence you are purposely or intentionally refusing to work in order to avoid your child support obligations. 
  • The earnings of the other parent. The total amount of support will need to be paid is determined by assessing the total combined income of both parents to assess how much the parents together should spend on the child. Those with a higher family income are expected to spend more money on their kids.
  • The number of children that you have. If you have multiple children, you will have a higher child support payment than if you have just one child.
  • The amount of time spent with your child. When you have physical or shared custody, you are assumed to be spending money on the child’s care during that time. As such, this can reduce the amount of money that you must pay to the other parent for the care of the child.
  • The special needs of the child. For example, if a child has expensive medical needs, is disabled and needs special assistance, or otherwise is likely to incur additional expenses that go above-and-beyond what most children require, then this factor will be taken into account in determining how much must be paid in child support.
  • Other essential expenses the paying parent may have, such as child support costs from a prior marriage or other children.

Based on all of this information, the appropriate amount of child support can be determined. Standard child support formulas are used to ensure that every child gets adequate support from his or her parents. While you can deviate from these standard formulas in some cases if you and your spouse negotiate an agreement to something different, the court may not approve a payment of a smaller amount of child support unless there is a compelling reason to do so.  An experienced divorce and family law attorney can help you to argue for the support arrangement that you feel is appropriate in your situation.

Once the amount of child support payments is determined, you must pay as required or face court action to enforce the child support order.