Determining Child Support

  • There are three models that states use to determine child support.
  • Each model attempts to put the best interests of child first.
  • Paying parents should not be sent into poverty, because of child support payments.

For parents, there is an expectation attached to parenthood, where you, through your employment, earn enough money to provide a stable life for your children. Whether you are married, divorced, or single, this expectation remains consistent.

For divorced couples, one parent is required to pay child support, in order to ensure the best life possible for your children. By doing so, you are ensuring that your children are given every opportunity to succeed.

If you are a father, this often can fall on you. Many family courts work under the assumption that the fathers are the primary earners, when the reality can be far from it. Just as men can have the ability to provide a more stable and loving environment, in comparison to the mother, so can mothers outearn the father, making paying child support to the fathers more sensible and more beneficial to the child’s well-being.

Depending on your state, you may be forced to deal with different regulations that determine how child support is calculated. In order to better navigate these waters, it is imperative that you have a family law attorney, who understands the plight of fathers in these circumstances and has your best interests in mind.

States generally utilize three possible models to calculate the amount that the payor would pay, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Percentage of incomes model

The percentage of incomes model only utilizing the noncustodial parent’s income, in determining how much should be paid in child support. After it takes the income of obligor, it attributes a percentage that will be taken out as child support, based on state factors.

There is a variation of this model that calculates the child support based on a fixed, or flat, percentage across all levels of income of the paying parent, according to Laura W. Morgan’s “Child Support Guidelines: Interpretation and Application.” This means that the income level affects the expectation of what needs to be paid.

This flat percentage variation of the percentage of incomes model is utilized by Wisconsin, Nevada, Mississippi, and Alaska, while Texas, North Dakota, and Arkansas use the varying percentage variation of the percentage of income model. This variation applies different percentages to different levels of income making it so the percentage of the payor’s income devoted to child support varies according to the level he or she is receiving as income, according to the University of California-Davis’ Journal of Juvenile Law and Policy.

Income shares model

The second model that is used by states to determine child support is the income shares model. This model is based on the notion that the child should receive the same proportion of a parent’s income as they would if they were living together.

This system has the courts determine the amount it would take per month to raise a child, add the incomes of both parents together, and then figure out what each parent would owe, based off their contributions to the total amount.

This system is used by Wyoming, West Virginia, Washington, Virginia, Vermont, Utah, Tennessee, South Dakota, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Oklahoma, Ohio, North Carolina, New York, New Mexico, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Nebraska, Missouri, Minnesota, Michigan, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Louisiana, Kentucky, Kansas, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Idaho, Georgia, Florida, Connecticut, Colorado, California, Arizona, Alabama, Guam, and the United States Virgin Islands.

Melson model

The third model is referred to as the Melson model. It is a model made up of cost-sharing and income-sharing models and requires that each parent’s basic needs be met before child support is set, according to the Administration for Children and Families.

There are three principles of the Melson formula, and they are as followed:

  • Parents are entitled to keep sufficient income to meet their basic needs to encourage continued employment, until the basic needs of the child are met.
  • Parents should not be permitted to retain any more income than that required to provide the bare necessities for their own self-support.
  • When income is sufficient to cover the parents’ basic needs and those of the dependent(s), the child is entitled to share in any additional income and benefit from the noncustodial parent’s higher standard of living.

For low-income cases, the Melson formula includes a self-support reserve for parents. The states that utilize this method are Delaware, Montana, and Hawaii. Washington D.C. uses a hybrid model that starts as the varying percentage of income variation of the percentage of income model and is then reduced by a formula, based on the custodial parent’s income.

Cordell & Cordell understands the concerns men face during divorce.

Realistic expectations

The purpose of these methods is to make sure that the child is provided for. By assigning child support, the courts are attempting to act in the best interests of the child. However, the best interests of the child cannot be achieved if the paying parent is sent in poverty or jailed, because of missing child support payments.

Family courts need to understand the financial limits that paying parents already are facing, before deciding to assign child support responsibilities that are outside of realistic expectations. The child will not benefit from money that does not exist.

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