Child Support FAQ’s

September 16, 2015

Q: Do I have to pay child support if we have 50/50 placement of the children?

A: When both parents have at least 25% placement (92 overnights in a year), the “shared-placement” formula applies. The “shared-placement” formula considers the gross (pre-tax) income of both parents and the number of overnights each parent has placement of the children during the year, and offsets them against one another. Therefore, even if parents have equal placement, the parent who earns more money will have to pay child support to the lesser-earning parent under the formula. An attorney can assist in determining whether it may be possible to deviate from the formula.

Q: How is child support calculated if one parent has less than 25% placement?

A: If a parent has less than 25% placement, child support is calculated using the “percentage standard.” Under the “percentage standard,” the parent with less placement pays a straight percentage of their gross income as child support. The percentage ranges depending on how many children there are:  17% for one child; 25% for two children; 29% for three children; 31% for four children; and 34% for five or more children. This amount might be reduced slightly if the payor earns more than $84,000 per year, or less than $18,000 per year.

Q: Do I have to continue paying support after my child turns 18? 

A: Child support ends when the child turns 18, unless the child is still in high school or is pursuing a GED. If a child is still in high school or pursuing a GED, child support continues until the child obtains the diploma, but will not continue beyond the child’s 19th birthday. So if a child turns 18 during his or her senior year of high school, the obligation to pay child support will not end until graduation.

Q: How is child support calculated if the other parent is not employed or not making as much as they could?

A: In some circumstances, the court will “impute” or assign income to someone even if they are not actually earning that amount. The amount of income to impute may be based on the person’s earning capacity, which is determined using a variety of factors including their prior earnings, education and training, experience, health and the job market. However, courts typically do not impute income to someone unless their current employment situation was voluntary and unreasonable.

Q: If I am already paying child support, do I also have to pay for daycare?

A: Possibly. Child support is only meant to help the other parent pay for the child’s “basic support costs,” which means food, shelter, clothing, transportation, personal care, and incidental recreational costs. The other costs of raising a child (including daycare, tuition and extracurricular activities) are referred to as “variable costs” and are not meant to be paid out of child support. If a parent has less than 25% placement of a child, that parent is not responsible for paying any variable costs. The reason is that this parent is already paying a higher level of child support under the percentage standard. If the parents have shared placement, where each parent has more than 25% placement, variable costs are typically split in proportion to the placement schedule. The court order will specify how variable costs are to be split between the parents.

Q: If I am getting remarried, will my new spouse’s income be used to pay child support?

A: A step-parent’s income will not be factored into the child support formula, except under special circumstances. For example, if Parent A doesn’t have to work, because Parent A’s new spouse provides all financial support for Parent A, the new spouse’s income could be considered in the child support calculation between Parent A and Parent B.