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Child Support

Understanding Child Support

Child Support is a court-ordered periodic payment made by a parent for the financial benefit of their dependent child following the end of a marriage or other similar relationship. Child support is typically paid until the child reaches the age of maturity. 

Calculating Child Support – An Overview

Family courts look at a list of factors when determining how much child support a parent will owe, but the two most important factors are (1) the income of the parents, and (2) the number of nights each parent spends with their child. By balancing these two factors, the family court aims to maximize the financial well-being of the child. 

Theoretically, if the child spends an equal number of nights with each parent, and the parents earn the same income, then neither parent may be required to pay child support. However, any significant difference between the parents with respect to income or overnight stays will cause the court to issue a child support order. 

The process can be more complicated than just weighing income and parenting time, however, as there are other factors that a court may consider when calculating child support. We discuss those other factors below. 

Calculating Child Support – The Details

Here is a list of all the main factors that the family courts will consider when calculating an award of child support. 

  1. Income of the Parents: This is one of the two most important factors when calculating child support. All other things equal, the parent that earns more income will usually pay more in child support. 
  2. Parenting Time: The is the other most important factor when calculating child support. All other things equal, the parent who spends less parenting time with the child will pay more in child support. 
  3. The Number of Children: The greater the number of underage children in a family, the larger the child support award. Note though that the amount of child support due does not typically increase in lockstep with each child. In other words, child support payments for two children will not necessarily be double the child support payments for one child. 
  4. Support Adjustments – These adjustments relate to the day-to-day expenses a parent might have to pay for the health, education, and wellbeing of the child.
  5. Childcare – If a parent pays for childcare or daycare, they often receive credit for that payment. By paying for childcare or daycare, a parent can reduce their child support amount. 
  6. Health Insurance – If a parent pays for health insurance for the child, they often receive credit for that payment. By paying for health insurance for the child, a parent can reduce their child support amount. 
  7. Extraordinary Expenses – These are expenses relating to education or healthcare that are outside the norm. For example, these expenses may include special needs education, therapy, counseling, or medical treatment for an injury or disability.

Tips for Negotiating Child Support

Negotiating child support can be a complicated and emotionally draining process, but approaching negotiations with a clear strategy can help make the process easier and result in a more favorable outcome. Whether you negotiate child support in court or via mediation, your goal should be to arrive at a fair and feasible arrangement that serves the best interests of your child. Here are some tips to consider when navigating the child support negotiation process. 

  1. Consider the Child’s Needs: Focus on the needs of your child, including their education, healthcare, and extracurricular activities.
  2. Communicate Clearly: Maintain ongoing, respectful communication with the other parent. Respectful dialogue can lead to more productive negotiations.
  3. Understand the Law: Become familiar with the child support guidelines of your state, so that you know what to expect. 
  4. Prepare Financial Documents: Compile all relevant financial documents, such as financial statements, income tax returns, and expense receipts. 
  5. Be Open to Mediation: Mediation is a less adversarial, more flexible, and more affordable way to reach an agreement than litigation in family court. 
  6. Seek Legal Counsel: Consult with an experienced family law attorney for legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances. 

How Can We Help?

Our attorneys at Vista Family Law will help you understand exactly how a child support award is calculated. They can negotiate on your behalf to get you a child support award that is fair to you while being in the best interests of your child.

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