After the child custody is settled, the next question to answer is child support. Who gets the child support payments? How much? What does it cover? These are a few of the questions that arise. Just like child custody, the number one priority is making sure the best interest of the child is taken into consideration.
Before determining the amount due, one must consider the custody arrangement.
- The parent who has the child(ren) most of the time will receive child support. The parent who does not is the paying parent.
- If you have a joint custody agreement (the child(ren) stays with each parent at least 40% of the time), the parent who makes the most money is the paying parent or it may be considered equitable time and neither parent pays child support.
What is the amount of child support you will receive or need to pay? There are many factors that are considered when determining the amount of child support---parent’s income and ability to pay, the financial needs of the child and, if possible, the amount needed to maintain a child’s existing standard of living. These are all guidelines, but the court has the power to deviate if there is evidence showing a different amount is needed for the best interest of the child.
Support is based on parent’s monthly income. Any form of payment, i.e., wages, commissions, worker’s compensation, interest, and so on is considered income. The following deductions from income are allowed:
- Federal and state income tax.
- Social Security, Medicare and railroad retirement
- Medical insurance paid for child, and
- Other court ordered child support payments for other dependents
An Affidavit of Financial Means is used when determining a parent’s income.
If the non-custodial parent is unemployed or underemployed, the court will consider whether the parent is un- or underemployed based on a choice or circumstances beyond the parent’s control. If the court determines the parent is choosing to be un- or underemployed, it may choose to impute income to the parent.
The basic support in Arkansas is calculated using the Monthly Family Support Chart. If the parent’s income falls between two of the income categories, the lower amount is used. If the parent’s income exceeds the income amounts on the chart, then the basic support is calculated as a percentage of their monthly income as noted in the table below:
An example of this from the Arkansas Child Support Guidelines is as follows:
“The maximum on the weekly chart is $1000 a week. If a payor’s net weekly income is $1200 and support will be computed for one child-add $149 (the chart amount of support for one child when payor’s net weekly income is $1000) and $30 (15% of $200, the amount exceeding the maximum chart amount), for total child support of $179…”
What is covered by child support? What is considered the basic needs of the child(ren)? Child support is meant to cover a broad range of expenses, which include food, clothing, medical care, school fees, entertainment, extracurricular activities and so forth. The court will not require the receiving parent to prove where the payments are going unless the child’s basic needs are not being met. A general list of what child support covers:
- Basic needs – food, clothing, shelter
- Medical care
- Education related expenses – supplies, extracurricular activities
- Basic transportation and travel expenses
- Entertainment – access to computers, television, games, Internet, etc.
- Activities such as summer camp, sports, etc.
- College expenses
This a general rule, of course, as in custodial care, each case is unique. It is advisable that each parent have an attorney to help with this process to help you determine the best course for both current needs and long-term needs that you may not consider at the time. Child care expenses can quickly add up. Let Kevin Hickey Law Partners’ experience work for you during these uncertain and difficult times.