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Child Support Calculation

In cases of a separation or divorce where child custody is being disputed, the divorce decree will often include a child support order. The child support order typically defines the frequency and the amount of child support payment that one parent, who is generally the noncustodial parent, has to make to the other parent, who is generally the custodial parent, for the support of their minor child. One of the main purposes of a child support order is to regularly transfer some amount of the earnings of one parent to the other parent, which combines the assets of both parents to financially support the child.

How is the child support payment determined?

Child support payments are typically determined according to basic and objective guidelines. Most states have set up mathematical formulas to determine the amount of the payment. Attorneys are often able to calculate child support payments for their client using child support calculators, which give an estimate of the potential amount that the noncustodial parent will have to pay the custodial parent.

What factors are taken into account in calculating child support?

The child support calculation formula usually takes into account the net incomes of the parents. Federal and state income taxes, Social Security and Medicare taxes, health insurance payments, union dues, and other mandatory expenses are typically deducted from the gross income of the parents before calculating the child support amount. In many cases, parents may have to present evidence regarding their income, including pay statements, profit/loss statements of sole proprietorships, or tax returns. This evidence prevents one party from hiding income which should be included to properly calculate child support.

In addition to the net income of the parents, the child support formula takes into account other factors, such as the amount of time a child spends or lives with each parent, the number of children, and special medical or educational expenses. Determining the amount of child support can be very complex, and the child support calculation formula varies from state to state. As a result, some states use computer programs to determine the accurate amount of child support, while other states have different methods. An attorney in your area can provide expertise with the child support formula in your jurisdiction.

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Joint or sole custody may be awarded based on the best interests of the child and other factors that include 1) the preference of the child, 2) the desire and ability of each parent to allow an open and loving relationship between the child and the other parent, 3) the child's health, safety and welfare, the nature and contact with both parents and 4) the history of alcohol and drug use. Marital misconduct may be considered.
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