How Much Child Support Will You Receive?

Interviewer: How is child support calculated? Is it the same as alimony?

Tanya: No, alimony is based on all of those subjective factors that I told you. With child support, we have guidelines. If the income goes up to, I think, $187,000, it is either $200 or $600.

When the combined income goes up to that, or anything under that, there is a guideline. There is a number. We have a computer program that says this is how much child support is paid by these people, and you divide it in a proportionate share of the income of the parties.

It is just a number. Sometimes the number works for families. Sometimes it does not work for families. Some people spend a lot of money on their kids. Sometimes they do not. But there is a guideline and that is usually what is used.

When you are over guidelines- when you have incomes of $200,000, $300,000, $400,000, $1 million- then it becomes discretionary, considering the activities of the children. It is not what is called extrapolated. Suppose you make twice what the guideline is. That does not mean the person gets twice the guideline number.

It is really based on the needs of the children.

Interviewer: What are the guidelines then? For people making below approximately $200,000, is it 15% of your income for one child and 30% for two children?

Tanya: I do not ever look at it like that. Yes, you could look at it that way. I do not look at the percentages. In New York, they do percentages. In New Jersey, we actually have just real figures. It is a combination of recurring expenses and non-recurring expenses.

Some of the numbers include housing, automobile, gas. The other part of the figures includes food, clothing, utilities; all these different factors. Then, there is one number for one child. When you have two children, it does not get doubled. It just proportionally goes up. With three children, it is the same thing.

With each child, you do not add on a whole other number. It is like one box of cereal. How many times are these kids going to eat out of it? It is not a percentage. It is a sociological study they do based on intact families with these various incomes. Then they figure out how much these families, on average, spend on the children.

Interviewer: What is the ballpark range of these numbers?

Tanya: It varies. There are amounts for poverty. Obviously, the percentage of the income when you are down in the poverty level is much higher than when you are in the higher numbers.

Interviewer: What if you make very little, even though it costs X to raise one child in New Jersey as the state has computed?

Tanya: It could be 50% of your income.

Interviewer: Will it run into a wall where it is not possible, based on your low income anyway?

Tanya: That is exactly right. You have very low income, and that is why I do not want to say it is a percentage. When you have very low income, the percentage of your income for your children is much higher. When you are much wealthier, the percentage of your income is much lower.

Interviewer: What have you seen the range float from?

Tanya: I am not trying to evade. You can just go online. It is public information. Anybody can go online to check out what the child support guidelines are. Also, it changes every year based on statistics.

The guidelines, as I said, cover food, clothing, basic sporting activities, medical activities to a certain extent; things like that. The guidelines do not include health insurance premiums for the children, and they do not include work-related child care. So on top of the guidelines, you add on the kids’ health insurance premium and the work-related child care expenses like day care and stuff like that. You do not take it out of the child support.

So it is kind of kooky. What does it look like? It depends. Then it’s also their guidelines. The courts do not have to use that figure. 99% of the time they do because it is easy. However, kids go to private school; kids have other activities; and sometimes, God forbid, children are sick. There are all different factors that can change the guidelines.