Child Support Guidelines

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Child support guidelines are laid down by the federal government. The need for them arose because married couples who choose to marry and have children often also choose to divorce. The federal government established the guidelines with the goal of consistency across the 50 states in the amounts of child support. From state to state, child support guidelines and calculations vary.

What Are the Basics of Child Support Guidelines?

The federal mandate requires that each state formalize its child support guidelines, adopting them by either administrative or judicial rule or by statute. The fundamental intent of child support guidelines is fairness in a child support award, consistency and predictability in the administration of child support, and "adequacy" of awards. Each state, of course, restates these goals in different ways.

Regardless of state or wording, child support guidelines share six elements. These are shared custody and visitation, parental income, possible deductions from that income, child care and healthcare expenses, and other expenses. All figure into the amount the court awards for child support. If you need to find current child support information, guidelines and resources are available online.

Shared custody and visitation rights--assumed at 20 percent--are the first element in the calculations. The incomes of both parents are considered. Deductions are usually made for parents who are already paying court-ordered child support for other children. Child care expenses are generally taken into account when they are related to the parent's employment. Healthcare expenses for the child or children are usually stipulated in the court order dictating child support payments. Similarly, other expenses, such as special care for either gifted or handicapped children, are a possible factor.


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