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Child Support Calculations

It’s no secret that raising children is expensive. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that annual child-rearing expenses for a child in a two-child, married-couple, middle-income (before tax $61,530 to $106,540) family ranges between $12,800 and $14,970, while expenditures by married households with one child averages 25 percent more. To raise a child from birth to age 18 will cost an average of $245,340 (in 2013 dollars). These estimates are used in developing child support guidelines, which vary from state to state, but are established by each state’s Supreme Court or legislature.

Child support is based on the idea that the children of divorced parents should live as comfortably as they would have if their parents had remained together. The parents are in a similar position. It is assumed that if not for the divorce, each would have contributed to paying for the child’s care by making mortgage payments, buying groceries, buying clothes, and providing for other necessities. That is still the case after the divorce, so it is only fair that the both parents continue to contribute to such expenses. That is accomplished by a court order directing payment by one parent to the other. It is a misconception that the father always pays child support to the mother, or that the “custodial” parent always receives child support from the “noncustodial” parent. Depending on their relative incomes, it is entirely possible for the parent that has the children most of the time to be ordered to pay child support to the parent who has the children the least amount of time.

Under the Indiana income shares model, the calculation adds the parents’ incomes together using weekly gross income as the basis. This includes wages, income from self-employment, rent income, royalties, overtime, commissions, bonuses, and other forms of irregular income. If a parent has no income, potential income may be calculated and used, or minimum wage “imputed” to them. In addition to the basic child support obligation covering day-to-day living costs, work‑related child-care expenses and the weekly costs of health insurance premiums are added to the award. While child support can also address extraordinary medical and educational expenses, optional expenses such as camps or sporting leagues are not taken into account.

To compute the weekly adjusted income, deductions from the weekly gross income determination are allowed for subsequent children, support for prior-born children, and spousal maintenance. The child support obligation is then prorated between the parents, based on their proportionate share of the weekly adjusted income. Both Indiana and Kentucky have simplified the calculation process with online applications that allow attorneys to just plug in the relevant numbers and print out the results.

Modifications can be made later by parents who can’t afford to pay the child support obligation and by parents who believe the other parent isn’t paying enough. To get a child support order changed, you have to be able to prove that:

  • there has been a substantial and continuing change of circumstances since the last order, and
  • the previous order is at least 12 months old, and the amount of support that would be calculated under the current Child Support Guidelines would be at least 20 percent different from the existing order.

Child support obligations are complicated. If you have any questions about this topic, including computation and modification, you can find out more by discussing it with one of the child support attorneys at Church, Langdon, Lopp, Banet Law. We have years of experience helping people, and we can help you. Based in New Albany, Indiana, we proudly serve communities throughout Kentuckiana; Floyd County, IN; and Clark County, IN. Contact us by calling (812) 725-8224 or through our online form.

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