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Who Pays Child Support?

Child support orders vary widely by state. Learn more about who pays child support and how it’s calculated. 

Child support payments are designed to help cover a child’s basic needs, such as food, shelter, clothing, medical expenses, school costs, daycare costs, etc. Even if you and your ex split custody of your child 50/50, it’s possible that only one of you will be required to make child support payments. State laws governing child support payments vary greatly depending on where you live. Some common factors that determine child support include: 

  • One parent not having physical custody of the child 
  • Joint physical custody not being divided evenly between the parents 
  • ​One parent having a substantially higher income than the other parent 

How child support payments are calculated also varies by state. The most common method to determine child support is income. The parent that makes the higher income often pays more in child support. Another common factor in determining child support payments is the amount of time each parent spends with the child, although not in all states. 

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Income shares model child support 

Some states use an income share model. This is when the state adds your income and your co-parent’s income together. Based on the percentage of income you contribute, that’s the percentage amount you pay in child support. For example, if you make $25,000 a year, and your spouse makes $50,000 a year, together you make $75,000. Your income is 33% of the $75,000. Your spouse’s income is 67% of the $75,000. You pay 33% of your child’s expenses for food, shelter, clothing, etc., and your spouse pays 67%. This rule applies no matter what percentage of the time either of you has custody. 

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Income percentage child support 

In other states, each parent is required to pay child support equal to a certain percentage of his or her income. Some states alter the percentage depending on how much parenting time each parent has with the child, which is when the custody split comes into play. Learn more about how child support is calculated here.  

When does a parent not have to pay child support? 

It’s possible that if you and your co-parent both earn almost the same income, neither of you will have to pay child support to the other parent. In this case, you may have to come to an agreement on how much each of you will pay toward your child’s extra expenses— costs that fall outside of the money spent on food, clothing, and shelter. 

There is no easy answer 

Child support payments are more complicated than you might think. To learn more about how child support payments are decided in your state, you should contact an experienced family law attorney in your area. Looking to make adjustments to your current child support order? Read our article here

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