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How Courts Calculate a Parent’s Income for Child Support

Courts Calculate a Parent’s Income for Child Support

Do you have kids with someone you don’t live with? If so, you are legally responsible for contributing to their financial welfare, whether you chose to divorce or were never in a committed relationship to begin with. In most cases, ensuring children receive the support they deserve from both parents involves arranging child support. Determining a parent’s income for child support may seem complex at first, but breaking it down makes the concept more understandable.

Calculating Child Support Based on Income

The court carefully considers each parent’s financial situation when setting a child support amount. The goal is to ensure a fair arrangement reflective of each parent’s ability to contribute financially to their children’s upbringing.

Identifying Income Sources

The rules differ slightly between states, but in general, each parent’s “net disposable income” guides the amount of child support one or the other must pay. The first step is to calculate gross income, which includes earnings from most sources, such as:

  • Salaries and wages, including second jobs
  • Self-employment income
  • Bonuses, commissions, and overtime pay
  • Dividends, trust income, and capital gains
  • Retirement benefits and pensions
  • Workers’ compensation and unemployment benefits
  • Income from rent and royalties
  • Social Security benefits (excluding SSI)

Note: Child support from other relationships, gifts, and public assistance like food stamps are not included.

Subtracting Allowable Deductions

The next step is to subtract the following items from the gross income to determine net disposable income:

  • Federal and state income taxes
  • Social Security and Medicare taxes
  • Mandatory retirement contributions (up to a limit for voluntary contributions)
  • Mandatory union dues and professional fees
  • Business expenses for self-employed individuals
  • Health insurance premiums
  • Major financial hardships (requires judge approval)
  • Other non-discretionary expenses

Calculating the Combined Net Income

After deductions, the parents’ net incomes are combined to establish a baseline for determining the child support obligation. This is then divided according to each parent’s proportionate share of the combined income.

Time-Share Considerations

Courts aim to balance financial support with the physical and emotional support provided through time spent with the child. This means the parenting schedule, or how much time a child spends with each parent, is an important consideration when calculating child support payments. For example:

  • If a child lives primarily with one parent, the other parent must usually pay child support.
  • If a child lives primarily with one parent but spends a significant amount of time—such as weekends, holidays, and extended summer breaks—with the other parent, this arrangement could reduce child support payments. The exact reduction depends on the specifics of the schedule and the proportion of time spent with each parent.
  • If a child lives with each parent about equally, child support may be minimal or nonexistent, depending on each parent’s income.

Medical Coverage

Medical coverage considerations are easy to overlook, but it’s important to determine who will carry the child’s health insurance and how uninsured medical expenses will be divided. Typically, the court considers the cost of health insurance and whether the coverage is reasonably accessible and affordable. The responsibility for medical expenses not covered by insurance, such as co-pays, deductibles, and special medical needs, is often shared between the parents in proportion to their income.

Modifying Child Support

Either parent can ask for a change in court-ordered child support. Modifications may become necessary when a significant change in circumstances occurs, such as one parent’s income increasing or decreasing, custody arrangements changing, or the child’s financial needs fluctuating.

To initiate a modification, the requesting parent must demonstrate that the changes are substantial and ongoing to warrant a review and adjustment of the current support order. This process may involve submitting financial documents, revising the child’s expense needs, and potentially attending court hearings to decide on the new support amount.

Acknowledging Your Responsibility for Child Support

Caring for your child’s financial needs is a crucial responsibility as a parent. Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of child support, the idea is to ensure your children have what they need to thrive. Lawyers specializing in family law can provide invaluable assistance in navigating these matters, ensuring your court-ordered support agreement is fair, reasonable, and in the child’s best interest.

Contact a Child Support Lawyer in Kaysville, UT

Are you unfairly burdened by child support payments? Does your ex refuse to pay their share? No matter the situation, you need a child support attorney to help you fight for a reasonable arrangement.

At Murphy & Murphy Law, we have over 25 years of experience offering professional legal guidance in child support cases. We’re licensed to practice in Utah and Idaho and focus on easing the burden of raising children across two separate households. If you need help with child support issues, please contact us at (801) 547-9274 to request a free consultation at our law office in Kaysville, UT.