How to Calculate Child Support From a Deceased's Estate

By Beverly Bird

The law has historically struggled with the fact that minor children continue to need financial support after their non-custodial parents die. Methods for dealing with the problem vary from state to state and legislation frequently changes as lawmakers try to come up with solutions, some of them imperfect.

Termination of Obligation

In some states, such as North Carolina, a parent’s legal obligation to pay child support terminates as of the date of his death. If he leaves children behind for whom he’s been paying support, their standard of living immediately drops because they must now live on the income provided by just one parent. Other states have recognized the inequity of this arrangement and have updated their laws accordingly. For example, Texas changed its legislative code in 2007 to ensure that support continues after the non-custodial parent’s death.

Accelerated Payment

Among states that require payment of child support beyond the non-custodial parent’s death, most mandate that his estate pay the obligation in a lump sum. The parent is no longer living to earn income so there are few other options. Calculation involves determining the cutoff date for support -- either by state law or according to the terms of a divorce decree -- then ascertaining the years of support remaining based on the age of the child. For example, if your decree states that your ex will pay support for your child until she turns 18, and if she is six years old when your ex dies, your ex’s estate is responsible for paying 12 years’ worth of support, or 144 months. If the support order is $800 a month, this works out to $115,200.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Problems With Lump Sum Payments

A child-support obligation has priority over your ex’s other debts so the executor of his estate must pay it first. However, if the estate’s value is less than the lump sum due, your child won’t receive the entirety of the support owed to him. If your ex’s estate is insolvent, with no assets or value, child support ends. If the lump sum support obligation wipes out all your ex’s estate assets, his current spouse and any children from that relationship would receive nothing because there would be no assets left over for them to inherit.

Support From Other Sources

Some family courts require life insurance provisions in decrees to safeguard children against losing a parent's financial support upon his death. In most states, parents usually have this option anyway -- they can use it to avoid their estate being wiped out by a large court-ordered lump sum support obligation. The life insurance policy is usually in an amount sufficient to cover a lump sum payment. Parents can adjust the policy downward each year to keep pace with a smaller and smaller obligation as the child ages and approaches the birthday of the support cutoff date. If the policy is insufficient to cover the lump sum payment due at death, the estate would be responsible for paying the difference. If your child receives Social Security payments after your ex’s death, these are also usually deductible from his estate’s obligation for a lump sum payment.

Securing Payment

Most states treat child support like any other debt of the estate, with the exception of giving it priority over all other creditors. If your ex dies, you must make a creditor’s claim against his estate for the money owed. If he was behind in his payments at the time of his death, you can also make a claim for those arrearages. Life insurance proceeds bypass your ex’s estate as long as he did not name his estate as the beneficiary. These proceeds would be payable directly to you or your child so you would not have to make a claim against your ex’s estate unless the policy was insufficient to cover the lump sum debt owed.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Social Security Benefits in Lieu of Child Support Payments


Related articles

What Percentage Is Child Support Based On in Arkansas?

Of the many uncertainties involved with divorce, child support can be front and center. It will have a significant effect on your post-separation budget, so you'll probably want to know as soon as possible how much your obligation will be. In some states, it can be difficult to calculate what percentage of your income will go toward support, at least without professional help. If you live in Arkansas, however, you can take heart because child support is relatively simple to calculate.

Guidelines for Arkansas Child Support Payment & Income

Arkansas law takes much of the pain and fuss out of calculating child support. If it appears that you'll be the non-custodial parent when your divorce is final, estimating how much you'll have to pay – and how you'll pay it – is comparatively simple, given how complex the process can be in other states. Arkansas passed Administrative Order No. 10 in 1990, which offers charts and rules that tell you exactly how much your child support obligation should be.

Will Child Support Still Be the Same If the Child Turns 18 & I Still Owe Arrears?

Although child support law varies from state to state, every child eventually reaches the point where you no longer have to pay regular child support. This may be a specific age, such as 18 or 21, or it may be a combination of age and having finished high school or college. Regardless of your state's emancipation laws, you'll have to keep paying if you still owe arrears when the child ages out.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

What Is the Grace Period for Child Support?

There is no universal grace period, or set number weeks or months you can go without paying before the law begins ...

The Child Support Obligation for a Non-Custodial Parent According to the Law in Illinois

Illinois is one of only 10 jurisdictions that still calculates child support the good, old-fashioned way, based only on ...

Are Custodial Parents the Responsible Party for Medical Bills?

Anyone who has raised children knows that the costs of health insurance, broken bones and the latest school-spread bugs ...

What Happens When a Dad Who Owes Child Support Dies?

Many people assume when they divorce with minor children that both parents will be around to see each child through ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED