Breaking Down Child Support

By Molly Murphy

Regardless of your fight to gain custody of your children, child support will be an issue in your case. You will either be paying it or receiving it. Courts have little discretion in setting the amount of child support to be paid.

This is because, as a condition of receiving federal aid, the states are required to follow certain standards in their child support statutes. Although the exact procedures and details vary from state to state, there is a certain basic pattern no matter where you live.

To understand how child support works, it is helpful to examine an example of a state’s support statutes. Let’s take a look at Missouri’s Form 14, which is a mathematical calculation based on both parties’ gross incomes and other deductions.

The top of the chart asks you to enter your gross income. This is your yearly salary, including bonuses and overtime. This is the number you have prior to taxes and health care deductions.

If your salary significantly fluctuates year to year, or you have switched jobs, the Judge may ask for your last three years of tax returns. Once they have these three years of numbers, the Judge can average them to give you your gross income.

If the other party is unemployed, the Judge can adjust their gross income to be that of minimum wage, as that party is expected to work.

The Form 14 also allows each party to make certain adjustments to their gross salary. If either party is paying court-ordered maintenance to another party, child support paid for a child not a party to this action, or if you have another child in your custody, you will receive an adjustment. All of these numbers can add up to deductions from your gross salary.

For example, if your gross income is $40,000 a year, your monthly gross income is $3,333.  If you have one other child in your custody that is not a party to this action and you do not receive child support for, you would receive a $659 deduction.

This would make your adjusted gross income $2,647. These adjusted gross income totals give each party a percentage of the total amount of both parties’ gross income.

The chart then reviews each party’s deductions. The primary caregiver can receive a credit for additional child-rearing costs. The non-custodial parent can also receive a credit for daycare costs. This is also called reasonable work-related child-care costs of the parent paying support.

Another deduction is that of health care insurance for the children who are a party to this action. The court will ask you to get a breakdown of the employee (either one of the parties) plus child or family.

The court will only award you the amount that is paid for the children of the action. They will minus the amount that it costs for the employee to maintain this insurance from that of the total for employee plus child.

Further deductions can include either party being able to take a deduction for uninsured medical expenses. These are expenses that are not covered by the child’s health care plan.

This can apply when uninsured medical expenses are over $250 a year and are predictable and recurring. These expenses can include asthma treatments, dental costs, orthodontia costs and physical therapy.

A final deduction can also include other extraordinary child-rearing costs. These deductions are only included if the parties agree to them and they are ordered by the Court.

These include tuition at a post-secondary school, tuition at a private or parochial school, tutoring sessions, camps, lessons, travel or any other educational expense intended to enhance the academic, social or cultural development of the child.

The bottom of the chart, or Line 11, allows the noncustodial parent to receive a visitation credit for the amount of overtime they can receive in a year. These percentages range from 6% to 34%, which is ordered when the parties are sharing 50-50 custody. The chart then comes up with your final child support number.

I would advise you to always consult an attorney to prepare your child support worksheet, no matter your jurisdiction. In addition, it is your job to provide your attorney with accurate paperwork to identify these adjustments or deductions. If you do not use accurate numbers, your child support number could be too high or low.

Further, if the other party is seeking a modification of the child support, then they need to present a new worksheet to the court that details a 20% change from the previously ordered worksheet.

Cordell & Cordell has men’s divorce lawyers located in 16 states should you seek additional divorce legal advice or representation.

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One comment on “Breaking Down Child Support

    Insurance/ Child support numbers
    When figuring the amount of child support… why wasn’t I told that the difference in providing insurance coverage should be factored into my payments? I’m getting a little more than half a pay check with all my deductions every two weeks.. then giving up an additional 600 every month for child support. I make 53000 a year and net less than 1500 a month. I live in MS.

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