Next to spousal support, child support is another highly contentious area of divorce. The disagreements often start in the early of stages of end-of-marriage negotiations and may continue until children are no longer considered minors by the court. Regardless of what horror stories you’ve heard and regardless of what you think about the child support system there are 4 things every divorcing parent needs to know about child support.
These things will help you understand how child support works and are essential to avoiding child support arrears which could land you in serious trouble, even jail.
How Is Child Support Calculated?
The first step is to understand how your jurisdiction determines child support. Colorado, for example uses a Shared Income Model approach which assumes that parents will share in the support of their child in the proportion their individual gross incomes bear to the family gross income. The guideline establishes an amount that parents are expected to spend on a child’s basic needs such as housing, food, clothing and health insurance. That amount is adjusted for the number of children but two kids doesn’t mean double the amount because there are some expenses, such as housing, that aren’t incremental with an additional child.
That sounds simple enough doesn’t it? Oh that it were. One of the most common complications is with respect to income: A parent may be self-employed with an income that fluctuates significantly; a parent may be under-earning because they are only working part-time or have taken a lower-paying job; a parent may be working more than 40 hours a week through voluntary overtime or a second job. Whatever the specific income anomaly, chances are that it’s been handled before and that’s where consulting with a family law attorney in your area will be beneficial. You might start with a free service such as Avvo.
Another common variable in child support calculations is the number of overnights a child spends with each parent. This is used as a way to measure how much of the assumed basic expenses each parent is incurring. If a child spends fifty percent of his time with each parent, then each parent is assumed to incur half of the basic expenses.
Knowing and understanding what you will likely receive or pay in child support is one of the essential steps in preparing for divorce. You can find more in my free audio program What You Need To Know About Preparing For Divorce and in my self-paced, online divorce coaching program My Divorce Pal.