answers to your divorce questions

« Back to Home

Three Common Child Support Calculation Models

Posted on

Child support calculations seem mysterious to many parents who separate or divorce. Fortunately, there are only a few models states use to determine child support payments. Here are the three most common models:

Income Shares Model

This model is based on the belief that each child should enjoy a proportion of his or her parents' income equal to the one the child would have received if the parents had not divorced. In effect, this means the matter of the divorce shouldn't be allowed to disrupt a child's enjoyment of his or her parental income. Once both parents' incomes are calculated and added together, the court uses the following three steps to gauge the child support amount:

  • Basic child support is calculated using the formula (often in a tabular form) used in the state.
  • Presumptive child support is determined. This is basic child support plus add-ons, such as child care expenses.
  • The presumptive child support is allocated based on each parent's income, and the non-custodial parent has to pay the other parent the amount determined.

Percentage of Income Model

This is one of the simplest formulas for calculating child support. Using this formula, the noncustodial parent pays (as child support) a percentage of his or her income irrespective of the other parent's income.

The percentage you are supposed to pay is enshrined in your state's laws, if it uses this model. For example, if you are supposed to pay 17% of your income as child support, then you have to pay it whether the other parent is earning peanuts or a million dollars per month. The more children you have, the higher the percentage of the income you pay as child support, but it isn't directly proportional. This means the payment (as a percentage) for two children is higher than that for one child, but it doesn't double.

Melson Formula Model

The Melson formula is a variation of the Income Shares model, which makes it more complicated too. The main difference between the two is that the Melson formula takes into consideration other factors that the other model ignores. For example, it factors the standard of living allowance and the self-support needs of each parent. This is to make the payment of child support fair and ensure neither parent lacks basic needs due to child support payment.

These are the three major models that most states use. Whichever version your state uses, ensure you abide by the court order and pay your child support dues as determined. If you have an objection to the calculated amount, contact a family law lawyer such as Joanna Cobleigh Esq for clarification and possible modification, but continue making the predetermined payments until this is done.