Child support is defined as the payment one parent makes to the other to be used towards the financial needs of the child, which include healthcare, education, housing, clothes, recreation, food, etc. To meet the best interests of the child, and to allow that child the most stability and security, the court assigns child support.
If you currently, or are planning to, share custody of your children with a former spouse, the issue of child support can become a tricky one. With joint custody, day-to-day responsibilities, and with that daily financial responsibilities, are automatically shared. You might wonder if child support is necessary at all.
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions we receive about child support when there is shared custody of a child.
Which parent is expected to pay child support?
In a joint custody arrangement, both parents contribute to the child’s well-being and may be subject to paying child support. However, it is typically the non-custodial parent who makes the payments.
A non-custodial parent spends less than half the time with the child(ren). The thought process is, in the time when the non-custodial parent is not with the children, the children will have financial needs to be met by the other parent. The custodial parent, also responsible for child support, is assumed to be spending the required amount on the child when under their care.
When parents split custody evenly, the higher earner will pay child support to ensure the child is afforded the same level of financial support in both homes.
How much will I owe?
In a shared custody situation, the child support amount is based on the incomes of each parent, as well as the amount of overnights each parent has per year.
In South Carolina, you have access to a Child Support Calculator that can help you figure out how much you will owe. When using the calculator, also look at South Carolina’s Child Support Obligation Worksheets. They help you determine your income and include deductions. This will make the calculator’s answer more accurate.
Of course, a court can always decide on a higher or lower amount based on the individual circumstances, so be sure to keep that in mind during your calculations.
What is my child support payment amount based on?
Your child support payment amount is based on two major factors: your income, and the amount of time you spend with your child(ren).
The income amount used to determine the payments is your gross income. This includes:
- Pension or severance pay
If one parent is currently unemployed, a court is able to impute income to that person. However, if that parent has a disability and is unable to work, or stays home to care for a child, this income will not be required.
The court will also take into account the amount of overnights spent at each parent’s home to determine a final payment.
Am I able to modify the amount I pay if something changes?
If your financial circumstances change, such as a job change or change in employment status, you may request a modification in the amount of child support you pay. Once you request a change, in South Carolina, you need to show a substantial change in order to modify the amount.
Can I challenge the child support amount decided?
If you believe the payment amount decided upon is unfair to you, you may ask to adjust the amount prior to the child support order being in place. When deciding whether or not the payment amount is unjust, the court will consider:
- How the property has been divided if there was a divorce
- Retirement and union deductions that are mandatory
- The non-custodial parent’s income
- The education expenses of the child or the parents involved
- The child support already owed to other children by the parent
- Any agreement the two parents make regarding child support
Determining who is responsible for child support and how much money is owed can be a more complex process when parents share joint custody of the children. To navigate this process, guidance from a family law attorney with expertise in this area can help you get the answers you need.
Do not hesitate to reach out to our team of experienced attorneys for counsel and advice.