Two people who get married, have children together, and then ultimately decide they are better off parting ways, will likely have to negotiate the terms of child support during divorce. Only one spouse has to petition for divorce to the court, and then request a child support order. Not every state has the same laws regarding child support, so it’s important to understand how the laws for where you live could affect your child support case. Many divorcing parents consult with an attorney during this time so they can have the insight and guidance they need throughout the process.
Guidelines for Child Support
Which parent must pay child support and for how much depends on several factors, such as income, who has custody, and what is sufficient to adequately support the child’s growing needs (such as clothing, groceries, medication, education, healthcare, and child care). If the divorcing parents can work together, they are permitted to draft a child support proposal and then submit it to the court for either approval or denial. If it is approved, then the draft becomes a legally-binding document that each parent has to follow until further notice.
Child Custody Implications
Child custody arrangements can impact child support obligations. If one parent is awarded sole physical or legal custody during the divorce, then the other may have to fulfill the child support duty by submitting payments to that parent. If parents are both given joint or physical custody, then their child support responsibilities may be based on how much they earn and how much time they spend with the child.
It may be possible to modify a child support order if there are special influential factors that impact either the child or the paying parent. For instance, if the child had a change in needs then the amount may be increased by the court. However, the court will also determine whether it is realistic for the paying parent to keep up with payments. The goal is to support the child but not at the expense of putting the paying spouse in financial hardship. Real-life instances where a child support amount may be changed include:
- The child suffers from a medical emergency
- The paying parent goes through a medical emergency
- The paying parent encounters a severe economic setback
- Either parents earns more income due to remarrying
- The costs of living for either parent has greatly increased
Parent Income Considerations
When deciding the outcome of a child support case, the judge will evaluate a spouse’s ability to earn along with how much they are actually earning. While earnings are surely a big factor in calculating child support, if they could be making more but chose not to, then the judge may increase the amount. For example, a parent may still have to pay the same amount of child support if:
- They quit a current job and choose to enroll in college, particularly law or medical school
- They take a job with significantly lower pay, but there is a strong chance for higher pay in the near future
- They take a job that pays less but provides them with job satisfaction