Child Support

Child support is an obligation to pay support for a marital child or nonmaterial child. Under most child support orders one parent makes payments to the other parent to assist with the costs of raising a child.

In order to determine the amount of support a parent will pay the court must determine the following: 

  • The monthly income available for support
  • Determine the type of placement schedule that is court-ordered
  • Apply the appropriate percentage standard to the monthly income available for support
  • Determine if a deviation is appropriate

Monthly Income Available for Support

In order to calculate the support obligation the court must first determine a parent’s monthly income available for support. The monthly income available for support is based on the parent’s gross monthly income, from all sources including, but not limited to salary and wages, interest and investment income, social security disability and old-age insurance benefits, voluntary deferred compensation, employee contributions to any employee benefit plan or profit-sharing, and voluntary employee contributions to any pension or retirement, military allowances and veteran’s benefits, undisturbed income of a corporation, including a closely–held corporation, or any partnership, and all other income except that which specifically exempt. Gross monthly income does not include child support, foster care payments, kinship care payments, public assistance benefits, food stamps, cash benefits paid by counties, supplemental security income, and payments made for social services or any other public assistance benefits.

Placement Schedule

A support obligation is calculated based on the amount of time each parent has with a child. The amount of time a parent has with a child is calculated based on the number of court-ordered overnights each parent has with a child. A placement schedule can be a primary placement schedule or a shared placement schedule

A shared placement schedule is when each parent has at least 25% of court-ordered physical placement of a child and is ordered by the court to assume the child’s basic support costs in proportion to the time that the parent has placement of the child.

A primary placement schedule is when one parent has the majority of overnight placement, and the other parent has less than 25% of the overnight placement.

Percentage Standards

The percentage standard is the percentage which, when multiplied by the payer’s monthly income available for support results in the payers support obligation. In primary placement situations the court generally applies the following percentage guidelines:

  • One child: 17% of income available for support
  • Two children: 25% of income available for support
  • Three children: 29% of income available for support
  • Four children: 31% of income available for support
  • Five or more children: 34% of income available for support

In a shared placement situation the court will consider the amount of support each parent will pay in ordering support. The court will consider how much mom would pay for the child(ren) for the time the child(ren) are with dad and offset that figure by the amount dad would pay for the time the child(ren) are with mom.


In some instances the court may deviate from the standard percentage guidelines. In determining if a deviation is appropriate the court must consider all of the following factors:

  1. The financial resources of the child.
  2. The financial resources of both parents.
  3. Maintenance received by either party.
  4. The needs of each party in order to support himself or herself.
  5. The needs of any person, other than the child, whom either party is legally obligated to support. 
  6. If the parties were married, the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not ended in annulment, divorce, or legal separation. 
  7. The desirability that the custodian remain in the home as full-time parent. 
  8. The costs of child care if the custodian works outside the home, or the value of custodial services performed by the custodian if the custodian remains in the home. 
  9. The award of substantial periods of physical placement to both parents. 
  10. Extraordinary travel expenses incurred in exercising the right to periods of physical placement. 
  11. The physical, mental, and emotional health needs of the child, including any cost for health insurance. 
  12. The child’s educational needs. 
  13. The tax consequences to each party. 
  14. The best interest of the child.
  15. The earning capacity of each parent, based on each parent’s education, training and work experience and the availability of work in or near the parent’s community. 
  16. Any other factors which the court in each case determines are relevant.

Alternative Calculation for Special Circumstances

The court has alternative support calculations that can be applied to meet the special circumstances of families in the following situations:

  1. High income payer
  2. Low income payer
  3. Serial payer
  4. Split placement parents

If you have questions regarding your child support order or modifying a child support order contact one to the experienced family law attorneys at Lawton & Cates.