During divorce mediation, divorcing parents are often confused by child support. How is it calculated? What is included? Can it change over time? Dealing with the uncertainty of how much each parent is going to pay to support their kids makes people anxious. By explaining child support to our divorce mediation clients Westfield Mediation, LLC, we try to take some of the stress out of the divorce process.
Generally speaking, the state has a formula for calculating child support based on the parents' incomes and the amount of time each parent spends with the children. Child support is designed to cover children's day to day expenses of food, shelter, transportation, entertainment, clothing, etc. Additional costs like child care and health insurance are also factored into the equation.
Some special expenses are not included in the state's formula and have to be addressed separately. These special expenses include things such as private school, college education, some extra-curricular activities' expenses, and big celebrations like bar/bat mitzvahs, confirmations and Sweet Sixteen. Moreover, higher earners may find that the state child support guidelines cannot be applied to them. In those cases, parents determine their child support responsibilities based on a budget of their children's actual expenses.
The Courts require divorced parents to pay child support until their children are emancipated – usually once the kid graduates from college, joins the military, gets married or begins working full-time. Child support can and should be recalculated on a regular basis. So, if one or both of the parents' incomes goes down, they can seek to reduce their financial responsibility. The opposite is also true -- if the divorced parents' incomes go up, or the children's needs increase, the amount can be revised upward to account for these changes. Once our divorce mediation clients understand how child support works, they often feel more comfortable moving forward.