Child support is the court-determined monthly payment that the noncustodial parent pays to the custodial parent, to be used for the child’s expenses such as food, clothing, school and entertainment.
In accordance with the federal Child Support Enforcement Act of 1984, each state has developed its own guidelines to calculate the amount of child support to be paid in any particular case. There is a variety of general factors that are used nationwide to help determine the amount of monetary support to be paid.
Firstly, courts consider each parent’s current income including occupational wages, assets such as stocks and bonds, and welfare benefits. Other considerations that calculate child support payments include the number of children involved, specific needs of the child, needs of the custodial parent to support the child, day care expenses, and ability to pay and the child’s standard of living before the divorce or separation.
Child support payments may be modified over time for several reasons approved by the court. One legitimate reason for modification is a substantial change of financial circumstances due to a shift in either parents’ earnings, job loss or promotion, inheritance or any additional income from a remarriage. Changes in child’s expenses, such as high medical or dental expenses not covered by insurance, may also compel a child support modification for financial hardship purposes. Some child support orders include a cost of living adjustment (COLA), which provides that payments are to increase annually at a rate equal to the annual cost of living increase.
Another reason that may necessitate child support modification is a change in the parenting plan. For example, if the child goes from seeing the noncustodial parent only during weekends, to being in their care for an extended period of time, the noncustodial parent’s payments will probably decrease.
Many parents make the mistake of engaging in verbal agreements when modifying child support payment plans. The problem with oral agreements is that they are often vague and can lead to later misunderstandings and confusion. Parents who want to make modifications to their child support plan are encouraged to speak with a lawyer and have a court determine the amount to be paid.