Raising a child can bring great joy to parents, but it also comes with great responsibilities. One of these responsibilities involves providing financial support to the child until they become an adult. Each state has established rules to ensure that a child will not lose access to the support that they need if their parents part ways. These child support guidelines cover issues such as the types of income that may serve as sources of support, the formula used to calculate support, and the age at which the child support obligation ends. However, a court has discretion to deviate from the guidelines in certain circumstances.
While each state has issued its own guidelines, there are three main approaches to calculating child support in the United States. All but nine states follow an approach known as the income shares model. This approach is based on the idea that a child should receive the same amount of support as they would if their parents had stayed together. In other words, parents in an intact household likely would allocate a certain percentage of their income to advancing a child's wellbeing. The income shares model aims to roughly approximate that percentage.
Six of the other nine states follow an approach known as the percentage of income model. This approach accounts for only the income of the paying parent, often called the non-custodial parent. The percentage of income model does not consider the income of the recipient parent, often called the custodial parent. Alaska, Mississippi, Nevada, and Wisconsin use a flat percentage of income model, while North Dakota and Texas use a varying percentage of income model. The flat percentage of income model allocates the same percentage of a parent's income to child support, regardless of their income bracket, while the varying percentage of income model accounts for the income bracket of a parent. Taking a unique hybrid approach, the District of Columbia uses the varying percentage of income model, but its guidelines reduce the resulting amount based on the income of the recipient parent.
Finally, three states use an approach known as the Melson formula. In Delaware, Hawaii, and Montana, courts will consider the basic needs of each parent as well as the needs of the child. The Melson formula thus resembles the income shares model but adjusts it based on public policy considerations involving the parents.
Click on a state below for information about its approach to child support and links to forms that you may need to file if you are involved in a child support action.
The formula used to make an Alabama child support determination requires considering factors such as the combined gross income of the parents, the percentage of the gross income contributed by each parent, the number of minor children, and any pre-existing obligation by either parent to pay child support or spousal support. The formula also accounts for health insurance payments for children and who will pay them, as well as any amounts paid for work-related child care. A court will presume that the result provided by the formula is appropriate unless a parent shows that it is not. The parents may reach a written agreement for a different amount of child support if they have a reasonable explanation for the deviation.
An Alaska child support calculation depends on the custody arrangement. If a parent has primary physical custody, meaning that they live with the child for more than 70 percent of the year, a court will calculate support based on the income of the other parent. Otherwise, a court will calculate support by determining the amount that each parent would pay if the other parent had primary custody. Sources of income include disability benefits, unemployment benefits, and employer benefits, but not one-time payments or need-based public benefits. A court may deviate from the formula in situations involving a very large family, very low expenses, substantial health care costs, or other unusual circumstances.
An Arizona child support order will account for several different types of expenses, including payments for education, health insurance, and basic needs, such as food and clothing. Other types of expenses that may be addressed include the costs of extracurricular activities, special health care or child care costs, and the costs of travel for visitation. In setting a support amount, a judge will consider factors such as the income of each parent, the cost of health insurance, any expenses required for day care, and any government benefits paid to the child. Sometimes the parents can agree on an amount and ask the judge to approve it. A parent of a special needs child may need to pay support for longer than the normal duration.
A judge making an Arkansas child support determination will need to calculate the combined gross monthly income of the parents and the percentage of the gross income contributed by each parent. The judge will consult a chart that defines the basic child support obligation as a function of the combined gross income and the number of children. Income is defined broadly to include as many sources as possible and benefit the child to the greatest possible extent. A judge may deviate from the amount provided by the chart if that amount would be unjust or inappropriate, based on factors such as the child's best interests. If a parent is unemployed or underemployed without reasonable cause, a judge may impute income to that parent.
A California child support order will need to account for expenses such as food, clothing, shelter, health insurance, education, and potentially child care and extracurricular activities. A judge also will incorporate any back payments and interest. In determining the amount that a parent must pay, a judge will consider the time that each parent spends with the child and the net disposable income of each parent. Net disposable income involves deducting items such as taxes, health insurance premiums, retirement contributions, and pre-existing child support or spousal support payments. It can include income sources such as wages, commissions, unemployment benefits, disability or workers' compensation benefits, and investment income, among others.
A Colorado child support calculation takes into account the gross income of each parent (aside from any public assistance, other child support payments paid or received, earnings on retirement plans, second jobs, or Social Security benefits received by the minor child) and applies a standard percentage of support to calculate the payment amount. The court will consider the financial resources of the child and the parents, the child's medical and educational needs, and any work-related child care costs and attempt to award a child support amount that would give the child a similar standard of living to what they would have enjoyed had the parents' relationship continued. If a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed (as determined by reasonable consideration of the court), child support is calculated based on a determination of potential income.
To determine Connecticut child support using the child support schedule, each parent's gross income is calculated by their gross weekly income, including incentive-based compensation (like stock options) and Social Security benefits, but not Social Security Disability benefits or Social Security retirement benefits in excess of $5 per week when the recipient also receives Supplemental Security Income to meet the SSI subsistence threshold. Parents may also deduct the full amount of any health insurance premiums for themselves and all legal dependents, including the child receiving support, from their gross income. Adjustments for low-income individuals are built into the schedule, but a parent making less than $50 per week will not have a child support obligation.
Delaware child support is calculated based on each parent's net income. This means that in addition to more obvious deductions like income taxes, each parent may also deduct a "self-support allowance." A self-support allowance is an amount, determined by the court, needed for each parent to meet their basic needs and continue performing at work. The current dollar amount for self-support allowances can be found in Form 509, below. The final child support amount will be influenced by a standard of living adjustment and the child's custody schedule. Delaware requires any child support decision to go through a mediator, at least initially.
Along with the schedule of basic child support obligations, District of Columbia child support is affected by the child's custody arrangement. After each parent's adjusted gross income is combined and plotted on the schedule, each parent's percentage share of the combined adjusted gross income is multiplied by the child support obligation on the schedule. Thereafter, this number will be adjusted by the percentage of time that the child spends with the payor parent if custody is not presumed to be equally shared. Washington, DC has a minimum child support obligation of $75 if no information about gross income is provided.
District of Columbia Child Support Forms and Resources
Florida child support calculations include gross income associated with salary, bonuses, tips, overtime, disability benefits, workers' compensation benefits and settlements, unemployment benefits, retirement income, Social Security benefits, spousal support (including support from previous marriages), interest and dividends, rental income, royalties, and trusts and estates. If a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, the court will impute income based on a reasonable estimate, unless that parent can show that they are physically or mentally incapacitated. A court may also impute income if a parent does not provide income information or does not appear for child support proceedings.
To calculate Georgia child support, a court will determine each parent's monthly gross income and may subtract one-half of the amount of self-employment taxes, the monetary value of any pre-existing orders, or any theoretical child support order for any qualified child (a biological or adoptive child, but not a stepchild or other child in the home whom the parent has no legal obligation to support), if applicable. A court may also consider high or low incomes, health-related insurance, life insurance costs, child and dependent care tax credits, travel expenses, alimony, mortgage costs, permanency or foster care plans, extraordinary expenses, or parenting time, among other things.
The minimum amount of child support needed to provide for a child's basic living needs in Hawaii, called "base primary support," is $415 in 2020. This amount is dictated in Hawaii's child support guidelines, above, and was calculated by finding the monthly difference between a two- and one-person household according to the 2018 Federal Poverty Guidelines. Hawaii's guidelines implement a standard of living adjustment alongside the base primary support and also consider health insurance and expenses for child care. Hawaii child support obligations are best estimated through the step-by-step process in its guidelines.
Idaho child support is calculated by using the schedule set out in Idaho's child support guidelines. Child support is given priority over the needs of parents or creditors in any proceeding allocating family resources. The minimum child support obligation in Idaho is $50 a month unless the parent would be denied a means for self-support at a minimum subsistence level. In addition to basic child support, a court may award reasonable expenses for work-related child care, transportation costs, or tax benefits in the form of an allocation of dependency benefits.
Illinois child support is calculated by adding each parent's monthly net income, selecting the corresponding obligation on the Illinois Healthcare and Family Services schedule of basic child support obligations, and calculating each parent's percentage share of the basic child support obligation. If the court makes a finding that this typical calculation would be inappropriate, it may make a different determination of child support, based on the financial resources and needs of the child, the financial resources and needs of the parents, the standard of living that the child would have enjoyed had both parents remained in the same household, and the physical and emotional condition of the child and their educational needs. In Illinois, there is a rebuttable presumption of a minimum child support obligation of $40 per month, per child.
Indiana child support factors include the financial resources of the parent with custody of the child, the standard of living that the child would enjoy had the parents been and remained married, the physical or mental condition of the child and the child's educational needs, and the financial resources and needs of the parent without custody. Child support payments are immediately withheld from the income of the parent obligated to pay child support. The court may order one or both parents to obtain health insurance coverage for the child.
Both parents have a duty to pay Iowa child support, but usually only the non-custodial parent makes payments, since the law expects the custodial parent to spend their child support obligation directly on the child. Similarly, if the non-custodial parent's visitation time exceeds 127 days per year, they receive a child support credit. When the parents share custody, the parent with the larger income pays child support to ensure that the child's standard of living matches both parents' standards of living.
Kansas child support factors include the needs of the child, the standards of living and circumstances of the parents, the relative financial means of the parents, the earning capacity of the parents, the need and capacity of the child for education, the age of the child, the financial resources and earning ability of the child, the responsibility of the parents for the support of others, and the value of services contributed by both parents. The court may award both parents the right to information from health insurance providers regarding the health insurance coverage of the child.
Kentucky child support guidelines provide a calculation for child support, although the parents may agree to pay an amount different from that prescribed by the guidelines if the court approves. Kentucky takes into account most forms of income in its calculation, including military pensions, severance pay, royalties, dividends, trust distributions, and Social Security, workers' compensation, unemployment, and disability benefits. It does not include public assistance like food stamps.
Louisiana child support is calculated by using the gross income of the parents, but it may be adjusted by the court so long as the court gives specific reasons for deviating from the guidelines. The court may also order that a portion of child support be placed in a trust for the child, ending when the child turns 24 or at a later date as agreed by the parents. The non-custodial parent pays their share of the child support to the custodial parent, minus any court-ordered direct payments, such as child care costs, health insurance, and extraordinary expenses.
In Maine, the court uses affidavits supporting the combined gross annual income of both parents and the Maine child support table to determine a basic child support entitlement for each child. The total basic support obligation is determined by adding together child care costs, health insurance premiums (as determined by the cost of adding a child or the difference between an individual policy and a family policy), and extraordinary medical expenses in addition to the basic support entitlement from the table. After the total basic support obligation is calculated, it is attributed to each parent in proportion to each parent's gross income. The parent providing primary residential care will be entitled to payment of the other parent's share of the total basic support obligation.
In Maryland, any requests for alimony or maintenance are decided before determining Maryland child support. Thereafter, any alimony or maintenance award is considered actual income for the recipient and is subtracted from the payor's income for the purpose of calculating child support obligations. Child care expenses are determined by actual family experience unless the court determines that this is not in the best interests of the child. If there is no actual family experience or the court does not find the actual family experience in the child's best interests, the court will award child support at a level required to provide quality care from a licensed source.
In Massachusetts, child support is based in part on parenting time. The basic guidelines include a default calculation for a non-custodial parent who spends one-third of the time with the child. Calculations are adjusted if the parents spend approximately the same amount of time with the child, if each parent has primary custody of one or more children (split), or any other combination of parenting schedules. If a parent spends substantially less than one-third of the time with the child, a court may increase a Massachusetts child support obligation. A court may award child support for a child who is 18 or older at its discretion.
Michigan child support is calculated by using a formula to find the base child support obligation and offsetting that number with the time that the child spends with each parent, among other factors, to determine the ultimate child support obligation. In Michigan, a parent's income can include interest earned on inheritances and gifts, but not property or principal from an inheritance or one-time gift. Income also may include the value of gifts that a parent receives from others to the extent that those gifts significantly and regularly reduce personal expenses or replace or supplement employment income.
Minnesota child support is determined by matching the parents' incomes and the number of joint children to the child support schedule. If a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, or provides no evidence of income, child support is calculated based on potential income. Potential income is determined by evaluating the parent's employment potential, recent work history, and occupational qualifications. If the parent is receiving unemployment or workers' compensation benefits, the court may use that actual dollar amount as potential income. Finally, the court may impute potential income based on what the parent could earn working 30 hours per week at 100 percent of the current federal or state minimum wage, whichever is higher.
In calculating the parents' incomes for the purpose of Mississippi child support, a court may subtract not only taxes, Social Security contributions, and non-voluntary retirement and disability contributions, but also other court-ordered support costs and appropriate amounts for the needs of other children residing with the parent. Mississippi child support obligations always include reasonable medical support. A court may deviate from the standard child support calculation if there are extraordinary medical, psychological, educational, or dental expenses, independent income of the child, spousal support paid to the obligee, seasonal variations in either parent's income or expenses, special needs, a significant difference in visitation time, work-related or disability-related child care expenses, or other equitable considerations, including the child's age.
Factors considered in awarding Missouri child support include the financial needs and resources of the child, the financial needs and resources of the parents, the standard of living that the child would have enjoyed had both parents remained in the same household, the physical and emotional condition of the child and the child's educational needs, the child's physical and legal custody arrangements, and the reasonable work-related child care expenses of each parent.
Montana child support guidelines account for standard of living adjustments, meaning that the court will attempt to ensure that the child enjoys a standard of living commensurate with the parents' incomes, to the extent practicable. Montana also allows each parent to deduct a personal allowance before determining child support. This number is calculated by multiplying the federal poverty guideline for a one-person household by 1.3. If the parent has a legal obligation to more dependents, the calculation is done by increasing the number in the household when consulting the federal poverty guidelines.
Nebraska child support guidelines stipulate a minimum monthly support amount of $50 or 10 percent of the obligor's income, whichever is greater. In addition to the basic child support guideline determination, a court may add child care expenses. Child care expenses are those incurred due to the employment of either parent or incurred to allow either parent to obtain training or education necessary for a job or enhanced earning potential. The value of the federal income tax credit for child care is subtracted from the gross child care expenses to arrive at the net child care expenses.
In Nevada, while both parents are responsible for child support, usually only the non-custodial parent makes payments because the custodial parent is assumed to spend their share of child support directly on the child. In cases of shared or split custody, it is usually the parent with the higher income who pays the support. Nevada child support takes into account the number of children, the gross monthly incomes of both parents, and the custody arrangement. The court will then adjust child support up or down based on considerations such as health insurance, the child's age, the child's special education needs, and the value of services contributed by each parent.
New Hampshire uses a formula contained in its child support worksheet to calculate New Hampshire child support, but the figure can be adjusted based on certain factors. These factors include ongoing extraordinary medical, dental, or educational expenses, significantly high or low income of either parent, the economic consequences of the presence of stepparents, stepchildren, and adopted or natural children, and the parenting schedule, among other considerations.
The purpose of New Jersey's child support laws is to ensure that children benefit from the combined income of both parents and do not suffer because their parents do not live in the same household. Parents are required to submit a completed child support worksheet to the court, although the court may deviate from the amount awarded by the worksheet if it documents its reasoning on the worksheet. The New Jersey child support guidelines incorporate considerations based on scientific studies and various child rearing philosophies.
New Mexico child support calculates each parent's income based on their actual gross income, or potential income if a parent is unemployed or underemployed. Gross income includes salaries, wages, tips, commissions, bonuses, dividends, severance pay, pensions, interest, trust income, annuities, capital gains, Social Security benefits, workers' compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, disability insurance benefits, significant in-kind benefits that reduce personal living expenses, prizes, and alimony (maintenance).
New York child support is calculated by using both parents' incomes and the number of children for whom the parents are responsible (joint children and separate). The combined gross income is multiplied by a specified percentage determined by the number of children. The parents are then each responsible for the proportion of child support matching their income. For example, a parent whose income makes up 35 percent of the total gross income would pay 35 percent of the total child support obligation.
North Carolina's child support guidelines intend to provide children with equitable awards based on the incomes of both parents, but they also contain a self-support reserve to ensure that paying parents can maintain a standard of living based on the 2018 federal poverty level. For any obligor with an adjusted gross income below the federal poverty level, the guidelines provide for minimum child support of $50. On the other hand, if the combined adjusted gross income is more than $30,000 per month or $360,000 per year, the court will not apply the child support schedule and will determine a North Carolina child support obligation entirely on a case-by-case basis.
Child support in North Dakota is calculated from the standard determination of each parent's income and assumes that the primary caregiver spends their share of child support directly on the child, and only the non-custodial parent makes child support payments. In addition to the regular schedule of North Dakota child support, the court may add expenses such as child care costs and school fees. Temporary child care by the obligor or the obligor's relatives does not substitute for a child support obligation.
The Ohio child support mathematical formula is based primarily on the parents' gross incomes and medical insurance costs for the whole family. The entire cost of health insurance offsets the child support payment, not only the additional cost of covering the child. If the parents' combined gross income is greater or less than the incomes listed in Ohio's child support schedule, the court will determine child support obligations based on the standard of living of the child. Ohio child support takes into account the custody and care schedule for the child. If the payor's visitation schedule indicates 90 or more overnight visitations with the child, the payor's child support obligation is reduced by 10 percent.
Oklahoma child support guidelines consider gross income, both earned and passive, from any source, including salaries, wages, tips, commissions, bonuses, severance pay, military pay, dividends, pensions, rent, interest income, trust income, support alimony from someone other than the other parent in the child support case, annuities, Social Security benefits, workers' compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, disability insurance benefits, gifts, prizes, gambling winnings, lottery winnings, and royalties.
Oregon child support is calculated by determining each parent's adjusted income and percentage share of adjusted income, deducting self-support reserves, and determining the basic child support obligation and each parent's proportional share. The court then adds child care costs, medical support obligations, parenting time credits, cash support obligations, and other extra considerations. Oregon also incorporates a parenting time credit within the formula in its guidelines. The court will presume that each child is entitled to at least $100 in child support per month.
Pennsylvania child support is calculated by using a standard formula, but a court may deviate from it by considering certain factors, including unusual needs and unusual fixed obligations, other support obligations of the parties, other income in the household, the ages of the children, the relative assets and liabilities of the parties, medical expenses not covered by insurance, the standards of living of the parties and their children, the duration of the marriage (in the case of marriage and spousal support), and other relevant and appropriate factors, including the best interests of the child or children.
Rhode Island child support is calculated by determining the gross incomes of both parents before taxes and any other deductions. Living expenses are not deducted from this number. Gross income includes income from workers' compensation benefits, temporary disability benefits, and Social Security Disability benefits. However, standard Social Security is not considered income. The court then makes deductions for health insurance premiums, pre-existing child support payments, support of additional children, and the cost of child care. It can make deductions for other things on a discretionary basis, such as retirement benefits, life insurance payments, extraordinary medical expenses, income tax adjustments, and payments of original marital debts.
Gross income for the purpose of calculating South Carolina child support includes salaries, wages, commissions, royalties, bonuses, rents (minus allowable business expenses), dividends, severance pay, pensions, interest, trust income, annuities, capital gains, Social Security benefits (but not Supplemental Security Income), workers' compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, veterans' benefits, and alimony. For income from self-employment, proprietorship, or ownership of a business, gross income is gross receipts minus ordinary and necessary expenses.
South Dakota child support is calculated by using both parents' incomes, but if a parent is unemployed or underemployed, unless that parent has a physical or mental disability, there is a rebuttable presumption of employment at minimum wage. The minimum wage for this purpose is calculated as the state minimum wage at 1,820 hours per year. However, evidence to rebut this presumption may be presented to the court, and the court can adjust imputed income up or down based on the evidence and its discretion.
Tennessee's child support guidelines, at a minimum, prescribe that all Tennessee child support must take into consideration all the earnings and income of the alternate residential parent, the basic subsistence needs of an alternate residential parent who has limited ability to pay, and imputed income (taking into account assets, residence, employment history, job skills, education, health, etc.). A judge must also address how the parents will provide for the child's health care needs and may deviate from the guidelines if it is in the best interests of the child or children subject to the support award.
In addition to typical Texas child support, Texas courts may order a parent to pay retroactive child support if the parent has not previously been ordered to pay child support and was not a party to a proceeding in which support was ordered. If a parent was subject to a previous child support order, they may still be ordered to pay retroactive child support if the previous child support order terminated as a result of the marriage or remarriage of the child's parents, the child's parents separated after the marriage or remarriage, and a new child support order is sought after the date of the separation.
Utah child support guidelines contain a child support schedule, but a court may deviate from the schedule as it considers the following factors: the standards of living and situations of the parties, the relative wealth and incomes of the parties, the ability of the obligor to earn, the ability of the obligee to earn, the ability of an incapacitated adult child to earn or other benefits received by the adult child or on the adult child's behalf (including Supplemental Security Income), the needs of the parties, the ages of the parties, and the responsibilities of the obligor and the obligee for the support of others.
In Vermont, child support is divided between the parents in proportion to their respective and available incomes. The non-custodial parent pays their total child support obligation to the custodial parent, and the custodial parent is presumed to spend their respective share directly on the child. If the application of the Vermont child support guidelines would reduce a non-custodial parent's income below the self-support reserve, the non-custodial parent's share of the total support obligation is presumed to be the difference between the self-support reserve and their available income.
To determine Virginia child support obligations, a court considers all relevant evidence, but there is a rebuttable presumption that the obligation set out in the Virginia child support guidelines is appropriate. To rebut that presumption, a court can consider factors such as actual monetary support for other family members, custody and visitation arrangements, child care costs, marriage debts for the benefit of the child, the standards of living of all parties, and other relevant factors.
To calculate income for the purpose of Washington child support, the court takes into account each parent's income, but not any income or resources of another person. Income includes salaries, wages, commissions, deferred compensation, overtime, contract-related benefits, income from second jobs, dividends, interest, trust income, severance pay, annuities, capital gains, pension retirement benefits, workers' compensation benefits, unemployment benefits, maintenance actually received, bonuses, Social Security benefits, disability insurance benefits, and income from self-employment. It does not include sources such as gifts and prizes or overtime income from second jobs beyond 40 hours per week.
West Virginia places great emphasis on children sharing in their parents' standard of living and thus increases or decreases child support obligations based on a parent's wages and any other source of income. West Virginia child support guidelines aim to ensure that child support payments are in proportion to what the child would have enjoyed had they lived or continued to live in a household shared by both parents. In fact, the court may order that a portion of child support be placed in a trust and invested for the future, if the child's present needs are met.
While a Wisconsin child support obligation is usually determined by using the child support schedule, a court may deviate from the standard percentage if it finds that the standard is unfair to either parent or the child. Furthermore, a court may deviate from the typical calculation if a parent is responsible for paying child support to more than one family (or has a child support obligation under a paternity judgment or acknowledgment), both parents share custody equally as determined by the court, custody for multiple children between parents is split differently, the payer is low-income, the payer is high-income, or a combination of these special circumstances.
Courts determining Wyoming child support payments are able to deviate from the standard guidelines if a particular recommendation prescribed by the guidelines is unfair to a parent or the child. If this is the case, the court may consider factors such as the age of the child, the cost of child care, the child's educational and health needs, the needs of anyone else whom the parent is supporting, the value of services that each parent contributes, the financial resources of the child and the parents, the amount of time that the child spends with each parent, the physical, mental, and emotional needs of the child, and any other relevant factors.