How much Child Support?

Child support can be set at different times within a divorce case (and modified after the divorce). Generally, child support is first set a the beginning of a divorce in the form of "temporary support." Temporary support is labeled as such because it calls for the amount of support to be paid while the divorce is in process; hence, temporary. At the conclusion of the divorce case, child support will be set on a fixed amount, until such time that a parent seeks to have the child support modified at a later date.


The modification of child support is usually allowed with what is called a "substantial change in the circumstances." Caselaw has defined what constitutes a substantial change in the circumstance. Usually, when the payor of support looses their employment (layed off), the payor can seek to lower their child support obligation. The layoff must be involuntary, and not caused by the employee such poor work performance where the appearance would be the employee wanted to get fired. The recipient of support can obtain an increase of support by showing that the expenses of the children have increased and or the payor income has substantially changed. A substantial change in the payor's income can be slight, when you're dealing with lower earners.


As a general matter, child support is usually paid until the child turns 18 years of age or graduates highschool, which ever is last.  There are some exceptions for children with dissabilities, and those are generally decided on a case by case basis.  Emancipation events can take place prior to the age of 18, but those circumstances are rare.


Most all child support is set on a definate dollar amount (exceptions are discussed below).  The dollar amount of support is computed by looking at the payors income and figuring out the net income of the payor.  Net income is NOT the take home pay of the payor (there is a difference).  Net income is determined by taking the payor's gross income and substracting actual tax obligations and other statutory allowed deductions.  


Once you have computed the payor's net income, you then apply the statutory guideline percentage to the net income. 


Number of Childeren              Child Support


1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20% of net


2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .28% of net


3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .32% of net


All spouses should be mindful that this manner of calculating child support is frustrated when a payor of support has fluctuating income, or part of their income fluctuates (as in the case of bonus payments or commissions).  With income that is always in flux, a percentage amount (rather than fixed dollar amount) may be more appropriate.


Some key points to remember:


1.  You can always ask the Court for a modification of child support (if the other parent earns more, or less); 


2.  You cannot count 401(k) deductions or Flex account deductions for purposes of calculating your "net" income to find out your child support amount;


3.  If you own your own business, you can subtract business expenses for purposes of setting child support (child support is never set on gross);


4.  There are some situations where child support could be more or less than the statutory percentage guidelines.  (email me, if this may be at issue, and I can answer your questions); and


5.  Two golden rules in divorce:  Never discontinue paying support (on purpose) and never allow your spouse to not pay, both of these behaviors tend to make issues more complicated than they need to be.




If you have any questions about this material,

please call Paul D. Nordini at (630) 306-6300

or email him at: