How to Calculate Custody Percentage

By Christine Funk, J.D.

How to Calculate Custody Percentage

By Christine Funk, J.D.

When parents of minor children divorce, two issues the court will always address are child custody (sometimes referred to as parenting time) and child support. States expect parents will remain responsible for raising their children, both by being present in their lives and by paying their fair share for the cost of feeding, clothing, and housing the child. Many states make separate provisions for health care, day care, and other unusual costs over and above the standard child support calculations.

Man sitting in a chair feeding a baby with a bottle

Child Support Calculations

When courts determine the appropriate amount of child support, they rely on the formula instituted by the state. Different states have different formulas. Generally speaking, child support calculations are made based on the amount of money each parent makes, the cost of raising the children, and the amount of time each parent spends with the children before and after the divorce.

If both parents make $100,000 per year, and each parent has the children 50 percent of the time, neither parent will owe the other any child support. However, if one parent has the children 10 percent of the time, they will be expected to pay child support in recognition of the fact the other parent has the children 90 percent of the time and is obviously spending their funds on day necessities for the children.

There are two main ways of calculating the percentage of child custody each parent has: By the hours spent with each parent or based on the number of overnights the child has at each parent's home.

Calculating Child Custody Percentage by the Hour

Some states calculate child custody percentages by the hour. Consider a schedule of every other weekend and Wednesday nights from 5 – 9 pm. Imagine the weekend begins at 5:00 pm Friday night and ends at 7:00 pm Sunday night. Each weekend is 50 hours of parenting time. Multiply that by 26 weeks (every other weekend) for a total of 1300 hours. Add to that the four hours spent with the child every Wednesday night. Multiply this by 52, as the Wednesday night custody is weekly. This equals another 208 hours, for a total of 1580. Divide this by the 8,760 hours in a year for a total of 18 percent custody.

Calculating Child Custody Percentage by the Overnight

Consider the same visitation schedule of every other weekend and Wednesday nights from 5 – 9 pm. In this scenario, the Wednesday night custody time is not counted in calculating the custody percentage because the visit does not include an overnight. Instead, only Friday and Saturday nights from the every other weekend schedule count. Thus, take 52 overnights and divide by 365 days in the year. This results in a determination of 14 percent custody.

Unfortunately, people generally do not get to choose how the courts calculate child custody percentages. Instead, that calculation is part of the child custody and child support statutes for each individual state. Understanding how courts calculate child custody percentages, however, may inspire parents to consider alternatives, such as keeping the children until Monday morning, or taking the child an additional few hours another night during the week, depending on how their state performs the calculation.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

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