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When making custody arrangements during a divorce settlement, calculating child support is one of the most important things to understand. State courts use different methods to determine how much a non-custodial parent will have to pay, and these calculations are based on a variety of factors. Understanding how to calculate child support can help you make sure you are paying a fair amount, and avoid being blindsided or taken advantage of in court.

Calculation Methods 

There are three primary ways state courts determine how much a non-custodial parent should pay in child support. All three involve determining the income of one or both parents and how much of that income should go to child support. The differences lie primarily in whose income is taken into consideration.

  1. Income Shares Model

Most states use the income shares model to determine child support payments. In this model, the income of both parents is used. The court then determines the monthly cost of raising a child and bases the child support payment based on those two figures. For example, if a Florida couple gets divorced, the court determines that it costs $1,125 per month to raise a child. The custodial parent has a monthly income of $2,000 per month, and the non-custodial parent makes $2,500 per month for a total of $4500. Since the non-custodial parent makes about 55.6 percent of the total income, they must make 55.6 percent of the monthly cost, which comes out to $625.50.

  1. Melson Formula

A variation of this model used by courts in Delaware, Hawaii, and Montana incorporates a few different factors into their calculation. Based on the income shares model, the Melson Formula takes the parents’ basic needs into account as well. Child support is determined after calculating the amount of money each parent needs to cover their own basic needs. The calculations are more complicated than the income shares model.

  1. Percentage of Income Model

When using this model, only the non-custodial parent’s income is considered, no matter how much or little the custodial parent makes. This percentage is determined by the court, and depending on the state can either be a flat percentage or varying. The varying percentage is determined by the parent’s income level and allows flexibility based on how much money the parent makes.

Other Factors 

No matter which model the court in your state uses, there are all kinds of factors that can influence or change the amount of your monthly child support payment. Contact an attorney, like a divorce attorney from The McKinney Law Group, today to ensure that your payment is right for you.


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