Child support is an often-misunderstood concept. You’ll hear people state that the child support the court awarded them is far too low. You’ll hear from those paying that the amount is far too high. Some people believe it is just a magical number that the judge comes up with. It might be surprising, but child support is not a magical number. Child support is based on guidelines and a calculator that the state has created. Here are the main items that the court will use to calculate child support.
The gross income of the parties:
The court will need to know your gross income and the other parent’s gross income. Unfortunately, net income does not play a part. Also, it is important to understand that if you are not working, the court will likely set your income at full time at minimum wage. Right now, that is $10 per hour. Additionally, many people wonder if bonuses and overtime will be included. This depends on a number of factors. If a person has consistently worked overtime and it is likely it will continue, the court MAY include the overtime. This is the same for bonuses. However, it is at the court’s discretion whether to include the additional income.
Both parents have the right to enroll their child in childcare during his or her parenting time. Usually, the court will include the amount you are paying in the child support calculation. However, judges sometimes will not include it if they believe they amount paid is significantly higher than reasonable. A judge may also not include it if the other parent is available to watch the child. Again, it is at the judge’s discretion.
If you are receiving spousal maintenance or paying spousal maintenance, that will be factored in your income. If you are receiving, your income will look higher for calculation purposes. If you are paying, your income will look lower.
This factor causes confusion for people. Many people think they can include expenses like sports activities and extracurriculars in this section. However, this is not the case. This section applies to children who have special needs and costs incurred with those needs. It may also apply to children who attend private schools or special schools.
Health, dental and vision insurance costs:
The parent who is paying for all insurance for the child will get this credited in the child support calculation. Keep in mind that it is only the cost paid for the child, and does not include your portion of the cost or any other family members. An issue that arises with this is who will pay health insurance. Usually, the court looks to who historically has covered the child. Some judges will allow both parents to pay and receive credit for child support.
How much parenting time do the parents have? If you and the other parent share equal parenting time, you can indicate that on the calculation. If one parent has less than equal parenting time, the amount of annual days they have needs to be included in the calculation. If a parent has 12 hours or more consecutively, it is counted as a day. 6-11 hours counts as a half day, and 3-5 hours counts as a quarter day. Anything less than that does not count unless the parent is paying for routine expenses of the child during that time.
These are just the main factors that are considered in calculating child support. There may be additional factors, and the court has discretion on a number of these. Make sure to use the child support calculator from the Maricopa County Superior Court website to see what your child support amount should be.