Child support guidelines are not generous, and breaking up with your child’s father is not cheap. You want to make sure that you’ve asked all the right questions so that you can support your children as well as possible.
Child support guidelines are pretty simple, really. They’re based on certain information – the custodial arrangement (whether you have primary, shared, or split custody, it will impact the child support guideline), the number of children, the incomes of both parents, support paid for other children, health insurance costs, and work related child care costs.
The way the law is written, its designed to attempt to support the children in the same manner in which they would have been supported had the parents stayed together. Based on the amount of combined income, there’s a statutorily defined child support obligation. Basically, the law says if you make this number of dollars per month, the guideline child support figure is this specific number, and then you and your child’s father share that number proportionally based on your incomes.
In a primary physical custody scenario (where the non custodial parent has the child 89 or fewer days in a calendar year), child support is a pure proportional division of this number. If you make equal incomes, you’ll share that number 50/50 – though only the non custodial parent is responsible for paying. (The custodial parent is presumed to be responsible for paying her portion just by having the children live with her; there’s no requirement that you pay yourself.) It does get a little bit more complicated in a shared or split custody situation, where you have the children for different amounts of time, but the general idea is the same.
You can see the chart of guideline child support figures here. If you add your incomes together, you’ll be able to see that the level of support for your child (or children) is. Assuming primary physical custody, we just divide that by your shares. Under shared or split physical custody, we’d also run a calculation that is based on a sliding scale, depending on the number of days each parent has. Still, it’s proportional – based on time with the children (because the law assumes that the more time you have with the children, the more expenditures you make) and your proportion of the income.
But how does childcare work? Who pays for it?
I get it! As the parent of two really little kids myself, I know how expensive childcare is! It’s a big deal, and a serious budget buster. You’re right to be asking and thinking about this.
Childcare is one of those items that (as we mentioned above) goes into the child support calculation. That means that it is essentially split by the parties proportionally based on their incomes. It increases that base child support obligation that you saw in the statute, and makes the parties share that cost.
Let’s run an example, just for fun. Assume mom and dad each make $5000 a month. Guideline child support is $527.
If you add in $1000 a month in childcare, child support jumps up to $1027 – which essentially makes him responsible for a little more than half of that childcare obligation.
Does it matter how many children we have?
Yes, it does – it terms of the basic child support obligation. Assuming the same numbers as above (where I just calculated for one child), support for two children is $784 per month. With $1000 in childcare, it jumps to $1284 – an exactly $500 increase. So, the way the childcare is shared doesn’t change (he’s still responsible for his 50% based on his income share), but the base child support figure does change to reflect more children.
It would work the same no matter what your income share is. If you earn 30% of the income and he earns 70%, he would be responsible for 70% of the childcare charges.
But that doesn’t mean that he pays the childcare bill. He just pays child support, which has been increased to reflect the childcare expense, and you use the child support to pay daycare.
What about healthcare coverage? How does that work?
Healthcare coverage is kind of the opposite. Because it is deducted from a party’s paycheck (as opposed to, like daycare, being an ongoing separate monthly obligation), if your child’s father is paying it, it will reduce your child support by your percentage of the income share.
Say $100 per month is healthcare for the children. Assuming he pays, your monthly child support will be reduced by $50 to reflect his paying those premiums out of his paycheck. If you paid for the health insurance, on the other hand, your child support would increase by $50 a month to reflect your paying those premiums.
It’s not super complicated; you just pay for things proportionally based on your income share. It works the same way with unreimbursed medical expenses; you share them pro rata (that is to say, based on your proportional incomes). So, things like copayments, and whatever’s left over after insurance has paid its portion, you’ll share with your husband, too. That doesn’t factor into a child support obligation, because it changes month over month. Typically, you provide proof of payment, and he has a certain amount of time to reimburse you for his share of those expenses.
Good questions, though! I hope this helps. Child support can be complicated, but it’s good that you’re asking questions so that you understand exactly where those expenses are going.