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Child support guidelines are issued at the state level and are based on a wide range of socioeconomic factors. Child support is an amount of money paid to the custodial parent for the care of the couple’s children. The non-custodial parent makes the payment.
There are three criteria used to determine the level of child support required within the guidelines: income of each parent, the number of children and the custodial burden. It is important to remember that child support is separate from alimony. In order to determine the appropriate child support amount, the judge requires the custody agreement, income statements from each parent and any special expenses required by the child. These special expenses may include medical assistance, educational needs, or supportive services.
Each parent is entitled to keep a minimum amount of their income to meet their own needs. A predefined portion of income is allocated for the child support, based on state calculations. Any income over the minimum threshold is used to increase the child support amount.
If either parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, or does not provide income statements, the court will use the US Department of Labor wage survey to estimate their annual income. It is important to note that the child support guidelines assume each parent is capable of working in a full-time position at the state minimum wage. If the parent is disabled, or otherwise unable to work, proof is required by the court.
The child support amount is adjusted according to the number of children each parent is responsible for. This includes children from other relationships. Child support guidelines separate support from access issues. Parents are equally obliged to provide financial support for their children.
The tax guidelines for child support state that child support payments are not taxable to the recipient and are not a tax deduction to the payer. It is important to note that alimony is the exact opposite. Any attempts to modify court orders to shift the payments to alimony for tax benefits are ill advised. The penalties for this type of tax fraud are quite high.
Parental responsibility for child support is based on established paternity or parental role. A step-parent who acted as a parent for an extended number of years has a child support obligation for that child. Unless challenged, it is assumed that the other adult in the relationship at the time the child was born is the natural parent. Paternity can also be established through a blood test, if necessary.
The determination of who should make support payments is based on the living arrangements of the child, as defined in the child support guidelines. If the child's home is primarily with the father, the mother is required to make support payments. If the proportion of time is split equally, the amount of support required is reduced. This is to reflect the reallocation of the funds to meeting the needs of the child directly.