How Do Courts Calculate Child Support?
The court uses a Child Support Worksheet and Child Support Guidelines to decide how much child support to order. The Child Support Guidelines were established by the Indiana Supreme Court. You can read these Guidelines at Child Support Guidelines The Guidelines include comments, which help explain the Guidelines.
[Note: You can click on the question to go directly to the answer to that question, or you can scroll down the page to see all the questions and answers].
How do the Guidelines work?
Basically, the Guidelines try to keep the child in the same financial situation the child would have been in if the parents had stayed together. The Guidelines look at both parents’ gross incomes and the number of children to determine the child support amount.
The Guidelines also consider other expenses such as work-related child-care expenses, (child care costs due to working or looking for a job), extraordinary medical and educational expenses, and the children’s health insurance costs. The Guidelines also consider how often the non-custodial parent visits with the child. If the non-custodial parent visits the child often, that non-custodial parent will pay less child support. (This is a change to the child support rules which was effective January 1, 2004).
The following website may help you estimate your child support:Child Support Calculator[Note: this website may not yet calculate the new Parenting Time Credit, which is explained below.]
Of course, this will give you an estimate only. The court will have the final word on the amount of child support that is ordered.
What are “extraordinary” medical and educational expenses?
Extraordinary educational expenses can include the costs of sending the child to private or special schools. The court can consider whether only one parent wants the child to go to the school or if both parents agree on the educational expense. The court can also consider whether the expense is reasonable and necessary.
Extraordinary medical expenses include expenses for medical care beyond ordinary medical care. Actually, the amount of child support the court orders takes into account ordinary medical expenses. Specifically, 6% of the child support order is considered to be for health care expenses. (This is sometimes called the “6% rule”). It is like the non-custodial parent is prepaying health care expenses every time a support payment is made. So the custodial parent must pay the cost of uninsured health care expenses up to 6% of the basic child support obligation. After that, the court will usually order the parents to divide the uninsured expenses. However, if a child has long-term medical problems, a court might increase the weekly child support order to include this extraordinary medical expense.
How does the 6% rule work?
Here is an example of the 6% rule: Assume the non-custodial parent is ordered to pay $100 per week in child support. This would be a yearly support order of $5,200 (52 weeks x $100 = $5,200). 6% of $5,200 is $312 (.06 x $5,200 = $312). So the custodial parent would have to pay the first $312 per year in uninsured medical expenses. After that, the parents are usually ordered to split the children’s uninsured medical expenses in relation to the parents’ incomes. Thus, if mom earns 40% of the total parental income and dad earns 60%, mom will pay 40% and dad will pay 60% of the uninsured medical expenses (after the custodial parent first pays $312).
I was never married to the child’s father. Do the Child Support Guidelines apply to us?
Yes. The Child Support Guidelines apply to all cases where child support is ordered.
Does the court have to follow the Child Support Guidelines?
Yes, the court generally must follow the Guidelines. However, if the court finds that it would be “unjust” to follow the Guidelines, the court can order a different amount of child support. The court will have to state in writing why the court did not follow the Guidelines.
Here are 2 examples of when a court might order a different amount of child support:
- If the non-custodial parent routinely buys school clothes and pays for the children’s extra activities.
- If the non-custodial parent has to pay a lot of expenses for visitation (such as travel fees or long-distance phone bills).
What if one of the parents does not work?
If the court believes the parent could be working, but chooses not to, the court can “impute” income to that parent. This means that for purposes of the child support worksheet, the court will pretend the parent is working and will put in income for that parent on the worksheet.
The court will usually impute at least minimum wage full time employment. (The court will do this even if that parent is receiving TANF). However, if a parent has worked in the past and made more money than that, the court can impute a higher amount of income.
If a parent’s only income is SSI (Supplemental Security Income), the court cannot impute income to that parent. So if a parent’s only income is SSI, that parent cannot be made to pay child support.
Does the non-custodial parent get a discount on child support if the non-custodial parent regularly visits with the children?
Starting January 1, 2004, the court will look more carefully at the amount of time the non-custodial parent visits with the child. In general, the more overnight visits the child spends with the non-custodial parent, the less child support the non-custodial parent will be ordered to pay. The non-custodial parent receives a "Parenting Time Credit" which lowers the amount of child support the non-custodial parent is ordered to pay.