Determining the Appropriate Amount of Child Support

There are a many different factors that go into determining how much child support one parent pays to another. That said, there are two ways to go about it: in court or out of court. A significant number of families come to arrangements outside of court that work out perfectly for everyone involved. With that said, many custodial parents have a hard time getting child support from the other parents without court involvement (and the threats and consequences that come along with it).

Still, some people decide to forgo the idea of child support all together. Surprisingly, 24 percent of custodial mothers do not receive any form of child support. Nearly half of the women who go without child support have never asked for it or do not want it.

When the courts are involved, they look at several issues before determining which party pays what. Generally speaking, child support payments are to cover education, medication, clothing, food, and shelter expenses only. With that in mind, they also look at:

  • The age of the children – Older children typically cost more to take care of than infants.  Three teenaged children will usually require more money than three of their grade school counterparts.
  • The needs of the children – If one ore more of the children are disabled or ill, the amount of child support awarded will usually be higher.
  • The ability of the noncustodial parent to pay – A judge cannot award a custodial parent more money in child support than the noncustodial parent earns, no matter what the needs of the children are. All sources of the noncustodial parent’s income are considered, often including his or her new spouse’s income.


It is also important to note that the earning capacity of both parents are reviewed, not just the noncustodial parent. Because both parents have an obligation to support their kids, the income levels of the custodial parent and, interestingly, the income of his or her new spouse are also evaluated. Another thing to consider:

  • Just because the parents split custody of the children equally does not mean that either is necessarily excluded from making child support payments – While it may sound odd, it makes sense. If one parent makes a large amount of money each year while the other works for minimum wage, the parent making more money usually contributes money to the other parent’s care of the child.


Even with all of that, there is still more that goes into determining how much money one parent pays to the other in child support costs. For example:

  • Who gets to claim the child as a dependant on their tax forms? This is a pretty big deduction, which can result in hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars being saved in taxes. Often times, if the judge decides that the custodial parent gets to claim the child as a dependant, the noncustodial parent will see a decrease in what he or she would have paid in child support.
  • Who will pay for the health, dental and life insurance of the child? Again, this can play a huge role in how much one parent has to pay to another. Health insurance is particularly costly these days, many times even if it is subsidized by on of the parent’s employers. Like not being able to claim the child as a dependant, if the noncustodial parent foots the bill for the healthcare costs, it is likely to result in a significant reduction in what he or she pays to the other parent.
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