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Questions on Child Support Guidelines

The law views child support as the right of the child and not that of the parents. The parents are by law obligated to contribute to their children’s care and maintenance. If the parents live in different residences, an obligation to pay child support automatically arises, regardless of whether there is an agreement or court order to pay child support. The child support amount may be agreed upon mutually, through a third party, or through the court. Get more information on federal child support guidelines from Family Lawyers on JustAnswer. Here are some of the top questions answered by them.

What are the child support guidelines in the case of split custody where the children are separated between the US and another country?

Each state has different child support guidelines. You may obtain these guidelines from the clerk at the court in your county. Child support is determined by the state which issued the original order as long as one parent still resides in that state. Any modification sought by the parent will be determined by the court based on his/her financial declarations. The judge may order a variance based on any issue presented by either party. One of those could be a difference in the cost of living.

How is the cost of child support calculated?

Both parents have the same duty to pay child support irrespective of sex. In the case of joint custody, the parent with a higher income (obligor) may be required to pay the other parent (obligee).

The non-custodial parent (the parent that does not have the majority of the time with the child) would normally pay a percentage of the predetermined amount. The guidelines are determined on the basis of the total family income and then a percentage is assigned to each parent. Let's say the custodial parent earns $60,000 per year and the non custodial parent $40,000. The custodial parent would normally be responsible for 60% and the non-custodial parent 40%, which the latter will have to pay as the child is not living with him/her.

Each parent is responsible for his or her own babysitting expenses while the child is in their care unless otherwise specified by the child support order. However, day care calculations may be considered as additional expense.

Also, sometimes "credit" is given based on the number of nights the child stays with each parent. Typically, the parents may not agree on a child support amount that differs from the guidelines. Child support is considered a right of the child that can't be bargained away by the parents.

Can a spouse stop child support if he/she starts paying for the child’s college education?

Laws vary in each state, with a few states like New Jersey having some of the strictest laws for support through the college years. The court may require a spouse to pay for college as well as child support. Child support payments may not be stopped without the consent of the court. Paying for college does not substitute for making the payments on child support and the aggrieved party may file for contempt for the arrearages due. The only case in which the court may reduce payments is if the obligee starts working and the earnings are offset by reducing child support.

Do the new guidelines reduce child support if the noncustodial parent has over 20% overnight visits?

The new child support guidelines give what we formerly called the "non-custodial" parent a substantial reduction in the amount of child support they are required to pay. Before the change in the law, you were required to have at least 40% of the overnights to qualify for the reduction based on what we call the "gross-up" method. This was changed by the legislature effective January 1, 2011 and the new law only requires that you have 20% of the overnights, which is very close to what parents with guidelines "visitation" usually have. Family Lawyers on JustAnswer can give you further insight in the matter.

The children are in my custody 95% of the time though court papers say 70%. Can I seek modification in child support even though I remarried?

The guidelines set by the court to calculate support may be modified periodically for various reasons including accounting for inflation. However, the right to seek modification has been limited to those situations where there has been a substantial change in the financial circumstances of either parent, or the child. This means that you may not seek modification based only upon the change in the guidelines or merely because of a new law.

The new law provides a schedule of base child support amount according to the total income of both parents. This amount is then allocated to each parent by virtue of that parent's share of the total income, and adjusted for other expenses.

You will usually not be penalized for remarriage, which means that your new spouse’s income is irrelevant and will not be included. The spouse acting as the obligor has the duty to pay. If children are spending less time with the obligor, he/she may be obliged to increase the child support payments.

Do I have to pay child support if I am a step-parent or a guardian?

You would typically not be required to pay child support for your stepchild. The biological parent is responsible to support his/her child. For the same reason, the guardian will normally not be required to pay child support.

The right to child support and the responsibilities of parents to provide such support are internationally recognized. Child support may often be arranged as part of a divorce, legal separation, marriage annulment or dissolution, determination of parentage, or dissolution of a civil union, and may supplement alimony (spousal support) arrangements. Family Lawyers on JustAnswer can answer any questions you have about child support laws and child support guidelines.
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