How is Child Support Calculated?

by Aug 20, 2021Uncategorized

Wondering how much you might receive – or have to pay – in child support once you separate or divorce? Fortunately, in Ohio child support is standardized and based on a Child Support Computation Worksheet. This helps to ensure that children across the state are being treated consistently, regardless of their location. It has the added benefit of making the calculation process much more efficient.

Step 1: Determining Income

Because the Child Support Computation Worksheet is based on each parent’s income and expenses and the differences between them, the starting point is to first define what income is, and then determine it.

Income may come from a variety of sources, including wages, self-employment earnings, unemployment or other government benefits, retirement, and pensions. However, there is also something called imputed income, which is essentially a determination of a person’s earning ability, regardless whether they are actually earning that income currently. While on the surface that may not sound fair, it keeps one parent from intentionally lowering their income or quitting their job while the divorce is in process, hoping for a lower support payment to be awarded, only to go back to earning their full income once the final divorce decree is delivered.  

Step 2: Determining income proportion

Once both parties’ incomes are fully accounted for, the next step is to add them together and come up with the total income. Next, you must determine what percentage of the total income each party is making. This difference in proportion is what will determine how much each party must contribute towards the total amount of support. For the purposes of simplicity, let’s say the combined total income is $100,000, with dad earning $60,000 and mom earning $40,000. Dad earns 60% of the total income and thus will be responsible for 60% of the child support; Mom earns 40% and that will be her share of the support.

Calculating Child Support

Step 3: Who pays, and how much?

Now that we know Dad earns 60% to Mom’s 40% of the combined $100,000 income, let’s look at Ohio’s Basic Child Support Schedule. For illustration purposes only, let’s say there are three children, and pretend that the schedule shows the annual amount of child support to be $21,000. On a monthly basis, that is $1750. Dad is responsible for 60% of that, or $1050, and Mom is responsible for 40%, or $700. If the kids are living with Mom, Dad must pay her $1050. But if the kids are living with Dad, even though Mom makes less money, she must still pay Dad $700 a month to help support the children.

Step 4: Expenses

Expenses include medical and health care, insurance, childcare, taxes, and other child-related expenses. These expenses are built into the state’s Child Support Computation Worksheet.

For example, let’s say Mom carries the medical insurance for the kids, and it costs her $200 a month.   The $200 month ($2,400 per year) is essentially subtracted from Mom’s gross income and support is then calculated using the new income number. 

Step 5: Childcare

This can be one of the biggest expenses, especially if there are young children involved. There are two ways to handle it. The first, and easiest way, is to work this expense into the Child Support Computation Worksheet and let the worksheet do the work for you.   However, anyone with young kids knows that childcare costs are not the same year round.  The Child Support Computation Worksheet has built in limits on how much can be considered for childcare expenses.  The younger the child, the higher the threshold.  

The other way to handle it is for both parents to simply pay their share of the bill directly to the childcare provider. Unfortunately, this can put the childcare provider in the middle of any disputes, and if you can’t get along, you might be asked to leave the childcare program.

Step 6: Special circumstances

Although the state’s worksheet will provide a very specific number, the courts do have discretion to deviate from this amount if circumstances warrant it. In some situations, the law actually requires it.  For example, if the person paying support has court ordered visitation of at least 90 overnight visits each year, he/she receives a 10% deviation that is not subject to the court’s discretion; it has to be awarded.  Beyond that, Ohio law provides for a number of reasons for deviating child support.  The most common are extended parenting time and significant in-kind contributions. 

Getting your best estimate

Even though there is a child support calculator that is consistent with the Ohio Child Support statute, there are many factors that go into determining support. To ensure that you are exploring all of your options, accounting for all sources of income for both you and your spouse, and listing all expenses, it is best to consult with a child support attorney. The lawyers at Kirkland & Sommers specialize in issues like child support, and we can review the worksheet with you and help you understand the state’s guidelines and calculations. Schedule a free consultation and see how we can help to make sure you get a fair deal, whether you will be the one paying or collecting child support.