Friday, September 28, 2007

FAQ regarding Divorce # 14: How much will I have to pay in Child Support?

This usually depends upon three things: (1) the number of children involved in the Divorce, (2) whether there are any children “outside of the marriage,” and (3) how much you (as the “Non-custodial Parent,” or NCP) earns. The general percentages applied to your “Net Resources” (but not your current spouse’s Net Resources) are as follows:

One Child 20%
Two Children 25%
Three Children 30%
Four Children 35%
Five Children 40%
Six + Children Not less than Amount for Five Children

The percentages are slightly less if you have other children that are “outside of the marriage,” in other words you pay a little less (but not much) if you have children from a prior relationship for whom you also have a “legal duty of support.” If you are paying child support regarding other children, or if you support other children who reside with you, then you would pay a slightly lower percentage of your Net Resources than under the preceding guidelines.

“Net Resources” does not mean “net income,” however. It is not calculated based upon what you actually receive in your paycheck, because you can change this yourself (i.e. – take out more for a 401k contribution, etc.). The Court will calculate this fictional “Net Resources” by subtracting out what a single person taking the standard deduction and one personal exemption would pay in taxes (Social Security and FICA). You can find these amounts in the Attorney General’s Child Support Tax Tables, which is located on their website. The Court will also subtract any amounts actually paid by you for health insurance for the benefit of the Child, but not the portion of your health insurance deduction that applies to your own coverage. The Court will also deduct any union dues that you must pay.

Also, you need to be aware that the Court will consider any other sources of income that you are entitled to receive, including commissions, overtime pay, bonuses, interest on savings, dividends, capital gains, royalty income, net rental income, annuities, pensions, severance pay, retirement benefits, disability or workers’ compensation benefits, social security benefits, and similar sources of revenue. Persons who are self-employed should be aware that the Court will not merely look to your “salary,” if any, but may consider any benefits allocated to you from your business or undertaking, after taking into consideration the ordinary and necessary expenses required to produce such income.

There is a “cap” on the amount of Net Resources to which the foregoing percentage guidelines can be applied. That amount, for cases filed after September 1, 2007 (but before the next cost of living adjustment in 2013) is $7,500 per month. This is the maximum amount of Net Resources that the Court will usually consider for purposes of calculating your child support obligation, even if your actual Net Resources are greater. For example, a person with Net Resources of more than $9,000 per month with one child would generally pay child support in the amount of $1,500 each month, calculated as follows: $7,500 times 20% = $1,500.

Sometimes, the Court will award more or less than the amount calculated under the statutory guidelines, but only in compelling circumstances (this is referred to as a “Variance”). As the name “Guideline” implies, this is the amount that will guide the Court – and the amount you usually will pay.