by Wendy Alton
It seems like one of the biggest mysteries with family law clients is how child support is actually calculated. It is a common misperception that child support is based just on the income of both parents. While income is a factor, it is not the only consideration when child support is calculated.
In Michigan, the following is a standard list of items considered to calculate child support:
1. Income. Each parent’s income is considered, which includes wages, overtime, commissions, bonuses, self-employment income, contract income, investment earnings, social security, unemployment, disability, worker’s compensation, retirement income, military pay, tips, gambling earnings, alimony (spousal support) and employment perks, just to name a few.
2. Deductions from Income. Income is reduced by deductions, including but not limited to actual taxes paid, mandatory payments withheld as a condition of employment (like union dues), life insurance premiums if the children are beneficiaries, employer contributions to pension plans, and spousal support paid to someone other than the other parent
3. Number of Children. This is the number of children of this particular marriage.
4. Second Family Adjustment. There is an allowable deduction for other biological children of each parent.
5. Tax Filing Status. It must be specified how each parent is filing taxes: single, head of household, married filing jointly, or married filing separately.
6. Tax Exemptions. Child support considers how many tax exemptions each parent has, and how many of those exemptions are for children under the age of 17.
7. Child Care. The monthly child care amount (and for how many children) must be specified for each parent.
8. Health Insurance Premiums. The monthly amount that each parent pays for health care insurance premiums is considered. (premiums only—not out of pocket expenses)
9. Parenting Time Schedule. Child Support considers the number of overnights each parent has with each child.
All of the above factors are considered, and each factor is plugged into a computer program that provides an initial child support recommendation. The courts use this computer program, and many family law attorneys (like our office) have programs that are similar to the court’s program.
While the list above sets forward the general factors used in computing child support, keep in mind that there are situations that can exist that justify a “deviation” from the recommendation. This can occur, for example, when one parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, when a child has special needs, if the parent is a minor, or if a parent is incarcerated to name a few, or other situations that a court determines relevant.
Each case has its own special facts and situations that must be considered in order to properly calculate child support. Income alone is not the determining factor for how child support is calculated. If you are currently paying or receiving child support and are unclear as to how your child support was calculated, you should contact a family law attorney to have your child support reviewed and analyzed. This is one of the most frequent services that we offer our own clients.
If you are interested in learning more about divorce or family law, please call Wendy Alton at 248-380-9976 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.