Wednesday, March 25, 2009
The concept of child support stems from the principle that it is the duty of both parents to adequately support and provide for their children according to their means and ability. Frequently, the issue of child support is one of the central focal points in a divorce case.
Several decades ago, child support was entirely subject to the discretion of the court, and the results were inconsistent across the country. States, counties, and individual judges within the same judicial districts differed drastically in the way in which they awarded child support. No one knew what to expect in any particular case.
However, this changed in the 1980's, when every state passed legislation following a federal model Child Support Standards Act. The child support statutes enacted by each state were nearly identical, ensuring that child support awards would be consistent throughout the country.
The new uniform child support statutes are based on the premise that both parents must support their children in proportion to their respective incomes. While the non-custodial parent will always be required to pay child support in a fixed, stated percentage to the custodial parent, theoretically the custodial parent will likewise be expected to utilize the same percentage of his or her income toward the support of the children. Typically, state child support laws regulate child support based on a percentage of gross income.
For example, in the state of New York, the non-custodial parent will pay:
- 17% of gross income for the support of one child
- 25% for the support of two children
- 29% for the support of three children
- 35% for the support of four or more children
While these percentages may vary slightly from state to state, all states mandate roughly similar percentages to this. It is important to consult your divorce lawyer to find out the exact percentages in your state.
The above-stated percentages are mandatory and are usually referred to as "basic child support." In addition to basic child support, both parents are also required to contribute to "extras" or "add-ons" in proportion to their respective incomes. These "extras" include:
- Unreimbursed medical expenses
- Educational expenses
- Prescription drugs
- Dental expenses
- Extra-curricular activities
- Child care expenses
The apportionment of these "extras" is based on relative income, so that if one parent earns $100,000 and the other parent earns $50,000, the ratio of the apportionment would be 2:1. If their incomes are equal, then the split is 50/50.
The majority of states require child support to be paid until the child is 18. However, there are a few states that require it until age 21.