At Myers Family Law, we understand that child support cases can be difficult to navigate if you aren’t familiar with the law. Below, we answer some of the common questions that our clients frequently ask us about child support matters.
Question #1: How Do Courts Calculate Child Support?
Judge’s use both parent's net disposable income to calculate how much child support is appropriate for the situation. To determine a number for net disposable income, the court will first determine each parent’s gross annual income minus certain deductions. That amount is then divided by 12 to come to the monthly amount.
Gross income includes the following:
- Salary and wages, commissions, bonuses, pensions, trust income, rental income, disability insurance benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, and social security benefits
- Income from businesses you own
- Employment or self-employment benefits deemed appropriate by the court
The following types of net income will be deducted by the courts:
- State and federal tax obligations
- Health insurance premiums
- Necessary job-related expenses
- Mandatory union dues
- Hardships like extraordinary health expenses, uninsured catastrophic losses, and basic living expenses for children from other relationships
Question #2: Can Courts Order a Different Amount Than What is Initially Calculated?
Courts have the discretion to order an amount for child support that is different from what was determined through their calculations. Courts can make a low-income adjustment and lower the amount of child support if a parent’s net disposable monthly income is less than $1755, though this amount is subject to a yearly adjustment. The court also has the discretion to set the child support order above or below the guideline if it's in the best interest of the children.
Situations where the court can change the order to an amount other than the initial guideline, include:
- One parent has a high income and the guideline amount exceeds the needs of the children
- One parent doesn’t contribute enough to the children’s needs considering the amount of time that the parent spends with them
- The parents spend approximately equal time with the children and one parent devotes a significantly higher or lower percentage of their income to housing
- The children have special medical or other needs that require a greater amount of support
Question #3: Can Parents Make Their Own Child Support Orders?
Parents have the option to make their own agreement for child support. The agreement they reach must be submitted to the court for review and approval.
Parent-made agreements must state the following:
- Both parents know their rights
- Neither parent was forced to enter the agreement
- The agreement is in the children’s best interest
- All of the children’s needs will be met under the agreement
- Both parents are not receiving public assistance and have not applied for public assistance
Question #4: When Do Child Support Orders Stop?
Parents generally have to pay child support until the children reach the age of 18. However, there are exceptions, such as:
- The child is legally emancipated through either marriage or a declaration of emancipation from a court, or they enter active military duty.
- If the child is 18 years old and a full-time high school student who is not self-supporting, then the duty to pay child support can be extended until the child is 19 years old or completes high school, whichever is sooner.
- To the extent they are able, both parents have a duty to support a child of any age who is incapacitated from earning a living and doesn’t have sufficient means to live.
Question #5: Can a Child Support Order Be Modified?
Parents can ask the court to modify a child support order if their circumstances change, such as an increase or decrease in income or a change in the amount of time they can spend with the kids. If the parents reached their own agreement to pay child support below the guideline amount, then the court can modify the order without a change of circumstances. If the parents' agreement is above the guideline, there must be a change of circumstances to modify the order to a lesser amount.