If your child needs child support for basic expenses such as food, clothing and shelter, the bad news is that there is no federal law or national set of guidelines to determine how child support is calculated.
Each state in America has its own rules, laws and guidelines for calculating child support.
Generally, however, a non-custodial parent pays child support to the parent with primary custody.
This support is typically paid until the child graduates from high school or turns 18 or 21 years old, depending on the age of majority in the state.
While most states use a formula that takes into account both parents’ incomes, child support calculations that look at income can run from the simple to the complex.
On the simple end of the range, several states – including New York and Texas – make it fairly easy to calculate child support.
They do so by requiring a mandatory amount of child support payments based on a fixed percentage of the paying parent’s income.
But when one or both parents are very high income-earners, then a judge has to determine a fair amount of child support, based on numerous considerations.
Other states use more complicated formulas. For example, Delaware, Hawaii, and Montana consider not only each parent’s incomes, but they also take into account each parents’ living expenses too.
Adding to the complexity, some states may tweak child support when parents share custody. Or states may take into account other factors, such as how many other children a parent has and whether or not any previous child support orders exist.
Here is a guide to the specific child support calculations for every state in the U.S.
If you don’t pay your child support, some states will brand you as one of many “Deadbeat Parents” and will pursue you legally, threatening you with financial penalties, and even arrest or jail time.
So if you find yourself unable to pay child support, perhaps due to job loss or disability, don’t just stop sending a check.
Ask a judge to modify your child support order based on a change in your circumstances.
Most judges are very understanding when a parent is going through a temporary setback. But they won’t have much sympathy for a parent who flouts the law and refuses or willfully neglects to pay child support that is legally due.
Do you have a question about child support? Visit or directory of frequently asked questions about child support.