How Do I Calculate Disposable Net Income for Child Support Payments?

By Wayne Thomas

States take the position that both parents are responsible for financially supporting their children after divorce. When one parent has more overnights with a child under a custody order, she is generally entitled to support payments from the other parent. Some states calculate the obligation based on a percentage of the parents' combined net incomes, while others look at only the net income of the parent who pays child support. In either case, knowing what is included in net income is typically an important first step in calculating child support.

Gross Income

The first step in calculating net disposable income for the purposes of child support is to determine gross income. Although state laws can vary, gross income ordinarily refers to income from all sources, including wages, salaries and commissions. Further, unemployment, military, disability and workers compensation benefits are also part of gross income. However, gross income generally does not include benefits received from public assistance programs, such as food stamps.

Imputed Income

Gross income also includes income that a parent could be making if the parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. Underemployed means that the parent is working, but not at the capacity that the parent is capable of working. The purpose of this rule is to prevent a parent from working less or at a lower paying job to simply avoid a higher child support obligation. Determining earning capacity can be highly fact-sensitive and requires a court to look at a parent's educational background, work history and the present job market.

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

Net Income

After the court has determined gross income, the next step typically involves taking deductions for state, local or federal income taxes paid, as well as mandatory union dues and taxes paid on unemployment, social security, or medicare benefits. Alimony payments to the other parent may also be deducted from gross income. Once these deductions have been taken, the resulting number is referred to as the parent's disposable net income.

Role of Support

After net income is determined, the court will then run the number through the appropriate child support model to produce a base support obligation. The base obligation may be adjusted, such as an increase to cover extraordinary medical or school expenses, or a reduction for any direct support paid by the parent who would otherwise make child support payments to the other parent. For example, the parent may provide direct support if that parent has some overnights with the child under a custody order.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Typical Child Support in Texas
 

References

Related articles

How Often Can You Check an Ex-Spouse's Income for Child Support in North Carolina?

Child support is awarded to a custodial parent to assist with the expense of raising a child. The non-custodial parent is legally obligated to pay once a court has ordered it. Although the court makes a determination on the amount of child support at the time child support is awarded, the order can be modified at a later date due to a change in circumstances, such as when an ex-spouse’s income increases.

What Is the Maximum Amount of Child Support in Maryland?

A divorce does not end a parent's duty to financially support his children. In Maryland, child support is calculated according to a set formula contained in state law and based on the parents' incomes. Because a child's needs take precedence over the interests of the parents, a judge is not necessarily bound by a support calculation and may order a higher payment if he deems it necessary to cover expenses related to the care of the child. There is no statutory maximum limit to the amount of support the court can order.

The 8 Major Steps in Calculating Child Support in the State of New Jersey

When you file for divorce with children in New Jersey, the court determines child custody, parenting time and visitation rights. It also calculates the amount of child support to award, based on the parents' combined income. The New Jersey Department of Human Services outlines eight significant factors used to calculate child support. New Jersey also maintains a statewide child support system to help you recover court-ordered child support.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Can a Custodial Parent Collect a Portion of VA Disability & Child Support?

When a child lives primarily with one parent after divorce, child support orders help ensure that both parents ...

New Mexico Child Support Regulations

In New Mexico, the amount of child support is determined based on the principle that a child should receive the same ...

How Are Child Support Arrears Assessed?

Child support "arrears" are amounts that came due and, for whatever reason, weren't paid. They may consist of missed ...

How to Determine Child Support Amounts in Kentucky

Kentucky uses what is known as an Income Shares model for calculating child support. This model attempts to recreate ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED