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How to Calculate Child Support Amounts

When children are involved in a divorce, child support is likely to be an issue. Child support is money that one parent must pay to the other to help cover the cost of raising the couple's child or children. Although courts in each state use different equations to calculate child support amounts, the guidelines in this article will help you understand what is typically involved in calculating child support amounts.

What Is Included in Calculating Child Support Amounts?

Whether you're the one paying or receiving child support, you'll want to know what a court will consider as income for calculating the amount of child support. To begin, courts in most states will look at the regular income both parents earn, as well as the typical costs to care for the child or children. Beyond that, the courts will look at what other money may be coming into the parents' households in either regular or one-time payments. This additional income can change the amount of child support either for some period of time or until the next time the court has a reason to recalculate child support.

Payouts from a trust or an inheritance are examples of income that may change the payment rate for a defined period of time. How these will affect the child support amount and for how long both depend on the state's laws and how this income is delivered. For instance, if an inheritance is paid to the parent all at once, the court may require a percentage of it to be paid for child support also all at once. Or, it could spread that percentage out over the remaining child support payments, simply adding it to the normal amount paid each month.

Other income payments that occur regularly, such as an employer's matching 401(k) funds, may or may not be included in the child support equation. This, again, depends on each state's law.

Any financial tool, such as stock options, that puts off the payment of income into the future may be figured into the child support calculations now.

A qualified attorney can help you give the court the information it needs to calculate the child support amount for your case. You also can estimate, using child support calculators and worksheets from most states, how much child support will apply to your specific situation.

While every divorce is unique, all child support payments are calculated beginning with any income reported on income tax returns. This amount will be factored into the child support calculator, along with additional earnings. Certain expenses, such as those from a freelance business, may be deducted from this figure. Other amounts also may be added or subtracted, based on the specifics of each case. Consult your lawyer for detailed information on how your state calculates its child support amounts.