The child support amount is calculated by referring to statewide guidelines. There is a formula that will apply these guidelines to a particular situation. The components that go into the child support calculation are the following:
- each party’s income
- whether or not either party has other children, and if so, whether or not they receive or pay support for that other child
- the cost of medical, dental, and medical insurance
- the cost of child care
- the cost of any extraordinary expenses and
- the amount of parenting time each parent receives
The result will be the presumptive child support payment. Judges are allowed to deviate upward or downward from the presumptive amount of child support if good cause exists to do so. However, judges rarely deviate from the guidelines if the parents don’t agree on the deviation. In fact, even if they do agree on the deviation, whether upward or downward, the judge can overrule their agreement.
The judge has the final say on what the appropriate amount of child support should be. This is because historically some parents would agree to drop a request for child support in exchange for an agreement that they would have sole custody. However, this harmed the child because in many such cases, not enough money was flowing into that household to meet the child’s financial needs. An example of such a case is a wealthy father and a poor mother who agree to this kind of trade. The child would then live in poverty with the mother while the father would have the full use of his money solely for himself. However, that rarely happens nowadays, and a lot of men insist on paying at least what the guidelines say.
In many cases where men are the primary caretaker, they will often refuse child support from the mother if the amount they are entitled to receive is less than one or two hundred dollars. The same thing cannot be said for most mothers. It is seen that no matter how small the amount they are entitled to receive, they almost always will refuse to deviate downward to zero.
Another thing to keep in mind is that child support cannot be modified retroactively. This means that if you are a father and are paying child support to the mother based on a higher income that you no longer have, you are overpaying on child support. If you wait months or years to request a modification of the child support amount in order to make sure you are paying the correct amount of child support, you will not be able to get a credit for what you overpaid prior to the date that you filed your petition to modify child support. This is a mistake many men make.
Men need to be more diligent about requesting the modification right away. However, they have to make sure that they have a basis to modify child support. The general standard is that there must be a “substantial and continuing change” in what the child support amount should be. The child support amount must increase or decrease by more than fifteen percent for most judges to find that a substantial and continuing change has occurred.
When experienced attorneys meet with clients in an initial consultation about a child support modification, one of the first things they do is a calculation based on the information they have at that time, to see if there’s a good chance for success in seeking to modify the child support amount.