What Is a Typical Child Support Formula?

The child support formula takes each parent’s monthly gross income and divides it by the combined gross income.
Wage garnishment is often used to pay back child support.
Mediation may help divorcing partners come to an agreement about child custody arrangements, which affect child support.
Child support law typically permits expenses for the child's health care and day care.
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  • Written By: Christopher John
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 04 December 2014
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A typical child support formula is a method to calculate the amount of child support a parent must pay to another parent to help provide for their minor children. Each jurisdiction’s child support formula is contained in its statutes, under a section on child support guidelines. The guidelines will have a child support schedule, which provides the basic amount of child support that both parents must provide. The formula takes the basic amount from the schedule and adds certain expenses to derive the total child support obligation. The parent who owes child support will pay a percentage of the total obligation based on his or her gross monthly income.

To get the numbers needed for a typical child support formula, parents must provide their monthly gross income. Jurisdictions usually define gross income as any income that a parent earns from all sources. If a parent is unemployed, then a jurisdiction will use a number called potential income. Generally, potential income is the amount of money a parent is capable of earning, if employed. After each parent provides his or her monthly gross income or potential income, it is necessary to add the numbers to get a monthly combined gross income.


The child support formula will then take each parent’s monthly gross income and divide it by the combined gross income. This calculation will provide a percentage. This percentage will serve as part of the child support formula. The next number necessary for the formula is the number of children entitled to child support.

After obtaining the combined gross income and the number of children, it is possible to obtain the basic amount of child support. Each jurisdiction has a child support schedule, which provides a chart containing the basic amounts for child support. These amounts vary and depend on the number of children and combined gross income. Hence, it is necessary to find the number of children on the chart and the corresponding combined gross income amount. Once these numbers are located on the chart, it will identify the basic amount of child support for the child or children.

Parents will typically have other expenses for the children. The law will usually permit expenses for a child’s health insurance, dental insurance, work-related day care expenses, and other appropriate expenses to be included in the child support formula. The total amount for these expenses is added to the basic amount of monthly child support from the schedule. The number generated from adding these numbers is the total monthly amount of child support needed for the children.

The child support formula will now require that the number from the total monthly amount of child support be multiplied by each parent’s monthly percentage, which was described previously. For example, if the total amount of monthly child support is $800 US Dollars (USD) and a parent’s percentage is 45 percent, then the parent’s monthly child support obligation will be $360. If this parent is already paying for health and dental insurance, then the formula will permit subtraction of that amount from the $360 USD on a monthly basis. The remaining amount will be the amount owed as child support.


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