1 - Deciding the Fair Income of Both Parents - There are many pages in the Rule that talk about different kinds of money. The law says that almost all kinds of income must be used to calculate child support; even things like overtime, lottery winnings, and unemployment benefits must be added in. Welfare benefits or other money given to needy or disabled people are about the only money that doesn't count in figuring out child support. If a Mom or Dad doesn't work, but is able to, the law says the Court should figure out how much that Mom or Dad is capable of earning, and use that as their income for calculating child support.
2 - Deciding Taxes and Deductions - The Rule only allows a few deductions and that the Court has to decide what the right amount of taxes are. You may have more or less taxes taken out of your pay. You may also have deductions like a credit union loan or a savings or retirement plan that will be added back in, because only the ones that have to come out of your pay, count.
3 - The Combined Net Income - After all the money is decided; the amount that is left to each parent after taxes and deductions (the net income) is added together. Just like a real family that shares their money, both parents' income are put together into a family 'pot'. Then, they look at the Guidelines chart for the number of children in a family and the amount of money in the family 'pot'. The number on the chart is the basic child support award.
4 - Splitting the Basic Child Support Award - If both parents have the same net income, they split the amount from the chart equally: 50/50. Usually though, one parent earns more than the other. If so, the law says that the parent with more money may pay a bigger share, like 60/40 or 70/30 (they get the exact share by dividing each parent's income by the total in the 'pot'). In a case where one parent is disabled or on welfare, the other parent may pay 100%!
5 - Visitation and Shared Parenting Adjustments - If the parents have a plan or order that shows the number of days they each spend with their kids, a special deduction is calculated for the parent who may pay support, based on that time. This can be a lot or a little depending on the amount of visitation or parenting time, and the amount of money the parents have.
6 - Add-Ons and Special Deductions - If a family has certain add-on expenses, like child care or health insurance for the kids, those costs are added to the basic support amount and split the same way as the basic amount from the chart. Also, some special deductions, like other child support or alimony orders, or certain government benefits are subtracted.
7 - Poverty and Shared-Parenting Income Tests - The law says that the amount of child support paid or received should not leave a parent too poor. There are special tests built-into the Guidelines that can help prevent a parent from paying too much, or receiving too little. The tests, however, always favor the children, by making sure the parent who has the kids most of the time gets enough money to take care of them.
8 -The Final Support Order - The law says that the amount left, after all of the above steps are done, is the right and legal amount of child support. If parents, lawyers, or the Court want to use a different amount, they have to give a special reason why the amount from the calculation isn't being used.