Child support is one of the most complex aspects of a divorce. Most people have very little understanding of what support covers and how the child support system is designed. To help clear up misconceptions and correct misinformation, 50 states have created child support guidelines to help couples and courts determine how much a child needs.
How Child Support Is Calculated
Courts will consider a variety of factors when calculating child support. A child’s basic needs will be considered first and foremost, but the court will also take into account the parent’s ability to pay and income.
Once payments have been calculated, the courts will not require the custodial parent to prove that child support payments are being put towards certain activities, unless the child’s needs aren’t being met. It is assumed that the parent with physical custody is paying the necessary expenses to raise and support the child, and his or her spending habits do not need to be monitored.
How Child Support May Be Used
Child support payments can be put towards just about any expense related to the child. This includes:
- Medical Care (insured and uninsured costs): Most states will require at least one parent to carry health insurance for the child, and child support may be put towards these costs. It may also be put towards the cost of extraordinary medical expenses, like out-of-pocket costs, deductibles and surgeries.
- Childcare: Support may also be put towards childcare costs, such as day care, nannies and babysitters.
- Educational Costs: Even if the child is attending public school, there are still costs associated with education. Support may be used for school clothes or uniforms, lunch money, tutoring, textbooks, tuition and other related costs.
- Transportation or Travel: Support payments can also be put towards gas costs, car maintenance, registration, insurance, bus fares and other costs associated with transportation.
- Entertainment: Most courts will say that children are entitled to basic entertainment. This may include television, computers, the Internet, games, or toys. Trips to the amusement park, movies, camping and other outings may also be covered by child support payments.
- Extracurricular Activities: Payments may be put towards extracurricular activities, such as sports, after-school programs, clubs, summer camp and other activities not related to school.
- College: There are some instances where child support payments may be put towards college education costs. Many states will rule that a child’s education prospects should not be hindered by a separation or divorce. In this case, the noncustodial parent may be required to contribute to college expenses even if he or she is at the age of majority.
Child support is designed to provide children with adequate support after a couple divorces. The custodial parent takes on the responsibility of raising a child and the expenses that go along with it, but the non-custodial parent must contribute to ensure that all of the child’s needs are met. The way in which child support is calculated will vary from state to state, so check with your local guidelines to get an idea of what the costs may be.
The Micklin Law Group, LLC is a New Jersey law firm specializing in family law and estates. Attorney Brad Micklin was recently named to The National Advocates list of Top 100 attorneys from each state. To set up a consultation, call 973-562-0100.