Straight Talk on Child Support

I don’t tend to sugar coat the news I give my clients; they rely on me for information needed to make critical life choices.  However, many things in family law are very uncertain, very difficult to predict, because there’s always the behavior and attitude of the other party and their attorney to consider.  But in child support cases there isn’t much that’s left up to the imagination.  Your child’s parent may be erratic, and you may have been struggling for some time to make certain decisions, but there’s not much that can be done to change what each of you pay in support.  Here’s why:

Child Support is Calculated by Formula

Our state child support law is based on a uniform formula used across the country to determine what it costs to raise a child.  Once you plug in some basic information about the parents, you get a figure which represents the amount of child support owed by each parent. 

Child Support is Determined by the Parents’ Earnings

Each party is ordered to bring to court documents showing their income, which is then plugged in to that standard formula to determine the child support amount.  The amount each parent pays is proportionate to his or her income.

There Isn’t Much “Wiggle Room” in the Numbers

The baseline child support amount, what it takes to feed, house and clothe a child, is set once that standard calculation is completed.  However, there is the possibility that child support can also include health insurance, school tuition, books and uniforms, as well as extracurricular activities and associated fees.   

These extras are what cause a lot of the fighting, but the courts weigh carefully what each parent can afford to pay against the status quo.  If a child attends private school and always has, and both parents paid for it when they were together, then it is likely that the child will remain in private school and the tuition and related expenses will be shared by the parents in proportion to their income.  If one parent wants to enroll the child in karate, cheerleading and tennis, and these activities are new and involve fees the parents cannot reasonably afford, the court may not award these as part of the child support obligation.

Where health insurance is concerned, the law requires that a parent who has access to insurance through their employer enroll their child in the program.  The calculation for basic child support will take into account any out of pocket expense for insurance.

Other Factors, Other Decisions

There are other things that affect the outcome of child support hearings, like who gets to claim a child on their income tax return, how shared custody arrangements can affect support obligations, and what happens when the State gets involved or has been involved in collecting support due or overdue (called an arrearage).  If you’d like to know more, I’m here to talk.  Call Meneray Family Law, L.L.C. today for a child support consultation at (504) 330-5522, or e-mail Liz at liz@menerayfamilylaw.com.

 

 

 

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