In divorce cases involving children, child support is often an issue which raises concerns for parties on both sides. Disputes over child support can significantly impact the co-parenting relationship and effect the financial circumstances of all involved. As attorneys, clients often share child support horror stories which are misleading or outright incorrect. This misinformation can cause people who are already dealing with a difficult emotional situation to experience even more stress.
For good or bad, the laws regarding child support although complicated in reality are theoretically fairly straightforward. Under almost all circumstances, child support obligation is determined by a calculation. This calculation takes into account two major variables: the respective incomes of the parties, and the number of overnights each party is expected to spend with the minor children once parenting time is determined. The differences between these two factors are the primary calculators for child support.
Hypothetically, if each party makes the same income and has the same number of overnights with the children then child support would be non-existent or very minimal. However, if either of the parents have a significant difference in income and/or overnights with the children, then child support will almost always be ordered. For example, if each party makes the same income, but one party spends more time with the children, then, under the guidelines the party with less overnights will pay child support. Likewise, if one party earns more income but the overnights are the same, the party with the higher income may be required to pay child support. The calculation essentially is like the scales of justice that weighs the respective incomes of the parties and the amount of time spent with the children to determine each parties’ responsibility for the financial well-being of the children.
Once the initial child support obligation is determined under the guidelines, the calculation next looks at other expenses paid for the children and apportions them in proportion to the parties’ respective incomes. Day care, health insurance, and other extraordinary expenses fall into this category. Simply put, the parties paying for various expenses are reimbursed for their respective responsibility for the children and the other portion is either added or subtracted to their child support amount insuring each party is responsible for their financial obligation in raising the children.
The child support obligation computed after all of the above factors are considered is a “presumptive calculation.” This means that barring very unusual circumstances, the calculation will be the amount of child support ordered. However, the final calculations can be greatly impacted by changes in parenting time, differing calculations of each parties’ income, and how extraordinary expenses are divided between the parties. To discuss issues related to your situation, please contact us to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys.
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