Keeping Your Family Strong--Even Through Divorce

How Child Support Is Calculated

by Kristen Wright

If you are the parents of minor children, the provisions for child support, custody and visitation are among the most important and sometimes contentious issues you will encounter when preparing your divorce agreement. Working out issues in advance will save time and money when it comes time to actually file for divorce, but there are government-mandated guidelines that you should be aware of before you make any decisions about child support. Read on to learn more about how child support amounts are calculated.


The federal government has sought to assist judges (and other involved parties) in determining child support amounts so that provisions are more fair and predictable. Since the guidelines are based on median incomes, each state has different calculators.

Factors Considered in Calculations

These calculators provide only estimates with several off-setting factors taken into consideration before the final dollar amount is deemed. Mitigating and variable factors include:

  • Income: States vary in the use of gross income vs. net income and the higher earner of the couple will likely always be required to pay a greater percentage.
  • Standing support orders: Court-ordered support payments previously handed-down may be deducted from the income calculation. It should be noted that only court-ordered payments apply here, not voluntary support. All support payments must be up-to-date to be used as a deduction.
  • Childcare: The parent responsible for paying this expense may deduct it from their income. This provision will likely be covered in the general divorce agreement.
  • Health insurance: This important issue will also be addressed in the agreement, with the parent responsible for providing the insurance and paying the premium being able to deduct that amount from their income.
  • Miscellaneous: Parents with a special needs child will need and be eligible for extra support amounts. Additionally, travel expenses for parents who need to comply with visitation arrangements may include those expenses in the calculation.

Orders to Amend

Once your divorce decree is final, you can expect that few issues will be easily modified, so take care in creating an agreement that addresses the needs of your children until they graduate college. However, it should be noted that any issue that concerns a minor child's welfare can always be revisited, since these issues are never actually "done and ordered". Judges recognize the need to revisit child support, custody and visitation arrangements as needed, which can happen often as income changes and children grow older and more independent. Contact a law firm like Slayton Law for more information about how child support is calculated.