A Look at the Inconsistency of Child Support State Laws

written by Fred Campos

[M]ost divorces are filled with contentiousness, and child support is one of the most controversial.

While painful, child support can be fairly clean, especially when one parent is the primary caretaker. However it gets more complicated with shared custody, where a wide divergence in the parents’ income can create controversy and hurt feelings. While several models exist, and the process will vary greatly from state to state, some guidelines can be determined to help relieve some of the angst.

In Texas, we currently operate on a “percentage of income” of the non-custodial parent, but let’s review other child support models as many parents, even in Texas, settle their agreements out of court.

Types of Child Support State Laws Models

Income Share Model, the most common formula for determining child support, which is based on the combined income of both parents. For example, if the mother earns $50,000 a year and the father earns $100,000, then he would pay 2/3 and she would pay the other 1/3.

Percentage of Income Model followed by 10 states, and the District of Columbia. In this program, the court takes into account only the income of the parent paying the child support (called the obligor). The state requires a percentage of his or her income. Some states figure this without regard to how much time that parent spends with the child. Again, my state of Texas currently follows this model.

Joint Physical Custody Model, if joint custody is granted, sometimes the child support is divided based on how much time is spent with each parents. For example, if the child spends 182 nights in each parents’ home, then each parent will pay half. Some states employ some leeway, cutting the time to 123 or 128 nights per year, still dividing the child support equally. The more time a parent spends with a parent, the less child support that parent will pay.

Joint Custody and Income Shares Model vs. Percentage of Income Model. Some states simply use the number of overnights as the basis for child support. The more overnights, the less the child support. Other states simply order child support to be paid as a certain percentage of the parent’s income irrespective of the number of overnights. Other states do it a bit differently. If a child spends 104 nights with a parent, the parent may owe 20% income, but if that number jumps to 180, it may drop to 10%.

Again, check with your attorney to find out how your state operates and what’s the best way to proceed. But if you have this information, and know what to expect, it should help you in negotiating your case.

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How do you share child support? What have you worked out with your Ex?

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