How Does Child Support Work? This Is What You Need to Know

How Does Child Support Work? This Is What You Need to Know

The question of how does child support work is one posed by millions of parents each year. In America alone, where the divorce rate is around 50 per cent, that’s hundreds of thousands of new inquiries each year. 

In the following article, we’ll be demystifying this often controversial aspect of divorce, so you’ll know what to expect if you ever face this issue as a parent. Let’s begin! 

What Child Support Can Be Used For

Before going too far into how child support works, we’ll start with who pays child support. There is a misconception out there that it’s the responsibility of one parent alone, but that’s not exactly the case.

See, both parents are responsible for supporting the child. The amount of “child support” a parent pays is but one part of the equation. The other parent’s contribution is weighed into the final calculation as well. 

As the question is posed for our purposes, however, we’ll be talking about the amount the noncustodial parent pays. That is the parent with whom the child does not live.

How Long You Will Pay

If you are the noncustodial parent, child support laws require you to pay a set amount every month or pay period depending on how the final arrangement is established. The amount ordered will be in effect until the child is 18 years old or one of the following conditions are met: 

  • The child is emancipated and recognized as a legal adult
  • The child is legally adopted 
  • The child graduates from high school or enlists in the military

In the next section, we’ll talk about the dollars and cents. That is, what can you expect to pay if you’re noncustodial? 

How Much You Will Pay

Child support rules differ by state, but the final amount tends to follow a familiar formula. That formula depends on the following: 

  • Cost to maintain the child’s quality-of-life
  • Employment status of the noncustodial parent
  • Percentage of the noncustodial parent’s income
  • Number of children the noncustodial parent is supporting

Many states are known as “percentage-of-income” states. You can find several calculators online for your state, but take those with a grain of salt. The real number will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

When Modifications May Be Made

Another aspect to consider for how child support works: the right that you have to modify as a noncustodial parent. You’ll first need to determine if modification is worth the legal expense. You may wish to consult with your attorney if any of the following factors are met: 

  • Custodial parent remarries
  • Loss or reduction of income
  • Increase in income
  • Child’s cost of care grows

An example of the final bullet point might be something like child support medical expenses. Those can create an undue burden on the custodial parent for which a judge is likely to be sympathetic. 

Still Wondering How Does Child Support Work?

If you have any remaining questions related to how does child support work, it’s always best to seek the guidance of an attorney. Each case is different, so don’t assume your friend or family member’s situation is your own. 

Best of luck as you prepare to budget your child support obligations. For more relationship and legal tips and advice, check out some of our additional posts.

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