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How does a judge decide on child support obligations?

Calculating child support is an important part of any divorce involving children. In some cases, parents with joint custody may decide that it's unnecessary, but the obligation to pay support usually falls on the shoulders of those who have less time with the children.

Every state has its own child support system, but there are a few factors that influence how much someone will pay. Those factors include:

  • The ability to pay based on the parent's income
  • The financial needs of the child, which include special needs, day care, insurance, education and other necessities
  • The standard of living the child was used to during the parents' marriage
  • The income and needs of the parent who has primary custody

Do judges consider how much a parent could earn versus what they do earn in child support calculations?

They can, but they don't always. They're allowed to look at a person's ability to earn to help guarantee that a parent doesn't take a lower-paying job to avoid their obligations or to cheat the system. If they do that, the judge can still order the higher child support payments. Since a child's needs come first, child support payments will be established based on what a parent should be providing based on their abilities.

If you and your spouse can agree on child support, then you may be able to have a judge approve your own agreement. However, most states have guidelines that will be followed in child support cases. Consider speaking with your attorney about the support you'd like versus what the state attempts to provide.

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