Child support is the money paid by a non-custodial parent to the primary caregiver to help offset the expense of raising and providing for the child. It is to be paid until the child is at least 18 years of age. If at the time the child turns 18 he or she has not yet graduated high school, is still fully dependent upon his parents for support, and still living with the custodial parent, then the obligation will continue until the child is 19 years of age or until the child has graduated or become independent.
How is Child Support Calculated?
Child support is calculated by first calculating each parent’s monthly gross income. If either parent is paying child support for a different child, that amount is subtracted from his or her monthly income and if one parent is paying the other parent spousal support (alimony) the support amount is subtracted from the income of the parent making the payment and is added to the income of the parent receiving the spousal support. The party’s adjusted monthly incomes are added together and the total income of the parties is used to determine the joint support obligation of the parties. Further adjustments to this total obligation are made for medical insurance for the child and day care expenses. Each party is then allocated responsibility for a percentage of the total support obligation based upon the percentage his or her adjusted monthly income represents of the total monthly income of the parties.
The court may further adjust the support obligation if there exist special circumstances that warrant an adjustment. These may be special medical and educational needs of the child, extenuating financial obligations of one or both of the parents, or any other circumstances which may warrant such an adjustment.
In certain circumstances, the court may calculate a parent’s income based not upon what that parent actually makes but upon what he or she could make. This is done when the court believes that that parent could in fact be making more money than he is currently making, but is either hiding income or refusing work in order to try to lower the support obligation.
Once child support is calculated it may be recalculated at any time to adjust for changes in the parent’s circumstances. The support is recalculated just as it originally was, but using any new information available. If there is only a temporary change in circumstances, the court will likely not make any changes as ultimately the child is still in need of care. The guidelines set the minimum monthly support payment at $65/month.
If a parent fails to make the child support payments, the court may in its discretion find the parent in contempt of the support order and imprison the parent for failing to make these payments. Additionally the parent entitled to receive the child support can ask the Department of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) to assist in collecting the support payments. The DCSE has resources to track down employment of a delinquent parent, garnish wages and accounts, and to intercept tax refunds. They will also assist in tracking payment history and continue to pursue collection on past due amounts even after the child is no longer a minor.