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What Are the Factors for Determining Child Support Payments?

Child support payments

A significant number of child custody arrangements also include provisions for child support. These child support payments obligate one parent to make regular payments of money to the other parent that are to be used for the wellbeing and upbringing of the child. In most cases, determining the amount of child support can be accomplished without going to court. States have guidelines to follow that help the parties come to a conclusion regarding child support. However, some cases are so contentious that a hearing or trial is required—and the judge decides the amount of child support.

There are many factors that the judge will consider when deciding how much child support payments one parent will be obligated to make to the other parent for purposes of the child’s wellbeing and upbringing. These factors differ state by state, but the most common are listed below:

  • The gross income per month that each parent makes;
  • Whether the parents’ gross monthly income is steady and consistent;
  • Whether the parents have the ability to get a better job or work for longer hours and choose not to (e.g., a doctor who chooses to work three days a week for seven months in the year will have their support payments calculated based on the amount they could reasonably earn in one year);
  • Whether any of the parents also earn bonuses or commissions in addition to their salary;
  • Custody and visitation arrangements for the child, including how many days the child stays with each parent or any changes to the visitation schedule;
  • Whether one parent has to travel long distances to visit the child as a part of their visitation schedule;
  • The expenses of each parent in caring for the child (e.g., logically, the custodial parent will incur more expenses in raising the child as opposed to the noncustodial parent who takes the child only periodically);
  • The number of children that are supported by the parents (e.g., raising multiple children is obviously more expensive than one child and is a factor considered by the judge in setting child support payments);
  • The age of the child or children (e.g., some states tend to reduce or eliminate child support payments after the child reaches the age of majority, while other states continue child support payments until the child finishes college);
  • The child’s living situation before the couple separated (e.g., the judge will try as hard as possible to keep a stable and similar living relationship for the child that is in the child’s best interests—meaning that the living situation post-divorce should be similar—if not the same—as prior to the divorce to eliminate disruptions);
  • Whether the child receives medical care for an underlying condition and whether this obligates the custodial parent to make additional expenses for the child to receive treatment;
  • Whether there are any special needs of the child; and
  • Any additional factors that bear on the amount of child support obligations that the judge deems relevant based on the facts and circumstances of the case.

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