Child Support Myths Busted

The biggest myth that seems to be propagated about child support is that he who has the children more receives more child support.  If I get the kids 50 percent of the time, then I won’t have to pay child support!

Unfortunately, that’s just not true.

Child support is set by a formula that has been developed by state economists and that formula processes two parents’ incomes and spits out an amount set for the kids. This is based on an economic table that looks at what age the kids are, how many kids there are, and how expensive those kids are likely to be, on average, at any given age. The higher your income, the higher the overall support amount for the kids, and then the party who is obligated to pay (obligor), will pay based on what their share of the income is.

On top of what’s called the transfer payment (that’s the general amount the obligor pays each month, meant to cover basic necessities like food, shelter, clothes, etc), each parent is on the hook for a certain percentage of other child expenses that aren’t included in the transfer payment. Those extra payments could be things like summer camps, tutoring, tuition costs, etc. A court will allow for the payment of these extra curriculars as they relate to education, daycare, or transportation. If you know that your kids are going to be involved in other activities, though, you can ensure that your child support covers these, too. Dance classes? Soccer registration fees? Agree to include those and then you and the other parent will be responsible for a percentage of the total cost, based on what percentage the worksheets say you should cover.

For example, if you and the other parent make roughly the same amount of money, and share the kids 60-40, then the parent with less time (40%) will likely be the obligor for child support. The transfer payment will be based on both of your incomes, and if you have about the same overall income per month, then the percentage you pay for other activities would probably be around 50% for each of you. To the contrary, if you make three times as much as the other parent, then your percentage would be much higher.

You can get credits for any expenses you are already paying. If you pay the children’s daycare costs, you’ll want to include those on your worksheets and make sure you get credit for them. Similarly, don’t forget to include medical insurance costs for your kids.

There are instances when a deviation from the transfer amount is appropriate. One circumstance that comes up frequently relates to the amount of time each parent has with the child/ren. If you have a fairly equal parenting schedule, you may be entitled to a deviation to your transfer payment amount. A downward deviation looks to how many overnights a parent has with his/her kid. If you have at least about 91 overnights a year or more, then you may have solid grounds to ask for a deviation. You will not be granted a deviation, however, if your paying less child support will result in the other parent’s home not having enough resources to live and support the children.

In order to collect child support, there are a few options. If you want to pay the other parent directly, you can do so. You can also send your child support checks through the Division of Child Support (DCS), and they can get your checks to the obligee (the parent who receives support). Alternatively, an obligor’s wages can be garnished from his/her paycheck directly, so that support is assuredly always on time each month.

Child support can be a complicated part of getting a divorce or establishing a parenting plan. Talk with an attorney to be sure that you know how to input the numbers, establish the appropriate credits, and get a child support order that works for you.