united states child support guide

United States Child Support Guide

Understanding United States Child Support


In some cases, marriage is not always forever. It is claimed that 41% of all marriages end in divorce. For individuals that get married a second or third time, the percentage of marriages that end in divorce is even higher. Research found that 60% of second-time marriages end in divorce. Meanwhile, three quarters of third-time marriages finish in divorce.


Divorce can leave parents, mothers and fathers with the responsibility of raising a child on their own. Single parents have the right to financial support from their ex-partners through child support. Every parent in the United States, whether married or divorced, must financially support their kids. Single parents in the US have the right to receive financial support and child support payments ensure a child has their basic needs looked after.


Child Support Payments in the U.S.


Child support payments are made by one parent to another following a separation. Payments of child support are made by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent and continue as the child grows older. In most cases, but not all, child support payments continue until the child reaches the age of 18.


A custodial parent is the individual in which the child spends most overnights throughout the year living with. The non-custodial parent is the individual that has the least overnights a year with the child. Since the non-custodial parent has fewer overnights, it is assumed by the courts that they pay less money to take care of the child. In comparison, the custodial parent has more time with the child, therefore, spends more money to raise them.

Child support is designed to even out the money parents spend. Courts assume the custodial parent spends money on the child due to take care of them on a daily basis. Non-custodial parents make child support payments as a replacement for the money they would spend on their kid if the parents had not divorced.


What is your responsibility as a parent to support a child in the USA


You are responsible for your child financially regardless of being together with the other parent or divorced. Each state has designed child support guidelines. The guidelines often set out the amount of money that a non-custodial parent must pay in support payments.


In most cases, the custodial parent does not have the financial resources to completely take care of and provide monetarily for their child. Therefore, child support payments give them the chance to fully support their child. Child support is designed to provide a child the same standard of life they would have had, if their parents did not divorce.


A child support order will specifically define the expenses that each parent will cover. This allows you to have a clear understanding of the costs that need to be covered. In addition, it will enable you to share the cost of unexpected expenses.


What does child support cover and used for?


The custodial parent is supposed to use child support payments to care for their child on a daily basis. Of course, child support is not meant for the custodial parent to simply spend on themselves and their own expenses. Some custodial parents either do not realize payments are not meant for their living expenses or use them for this purpose regardless.


United States Child Support Payments are to be used for:


  • Shelter expenses such as rent, mortgage, and utility payments
  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Toys
  • Books
  • Home furnishings the child uses
  • Medical expenses such as doctor’s appointments, insurance or medication
  • Dental care
  • School tuition and items associated with school
  • Activities, field trips, and excursions for school and learning
  • Sports activities and summer camps


All payments should be used for expenses related to the child/children. A misuse of payments includes the custodial parent purchasing items for themselves or for children unrelated to the child support order. Any money that is left over from a monthly child support payment should be kept, saved, and used when appropriate.

Child support in joint custody cases


A joint custody order can be messy when it comes to determining the amount of child support that needs to be paid. There are two ways to calculate the amount of child support that needs to be paid in a joint custody case. There are two factors that come into play when determining the amount of money paid in a joint custody case.


Firstly, the percentage of child support each parent pays to the family’s joint income may determine the outcome of in a joint custody order. The more money a parent earns, the more money they will contribute in child support.


Secondly, the amount of time a parent has in physical custody can impact the amount of money they contribute. Courts assume the parent with more physical time with the child bears the greater cost of raising the child.


Factors exist that alter the amount of money a parent pays in child support. Not all child support orders are clear cut and various factors can change the amount you pay or an ex-spouse pays.

Child support custodial parent


A custodial parent is the parent, relative or guardian who lives with and is the primary caretaker of the child or children, the custodial parent will be the one who receives child support payments.

Custodial parents can be young or old, male or female, and represent every income level and ethnicity. Child support is paid by the non-custodial parent directly to the Department of Social Services in order to repay the government for cash assistance. Even if cash assistance or Medicaid ends, the child support case continues until the children are emancipated. In addition to cash assistance, custodial parents may also receive a pass through bonus of up to 200 dollars per month when the non-custodial parent pays current child support.


What money is used to determine child support payment amounts?


Child support payments are determined by a variety of earnings. The amount paid in child support is ultimately determined by the court and a parent’s earnings and the physical amount of time with the child determines the end total.

Earnings that are taken into account for United States Child Support payments include:


  • Wages
  • Tips
  • Commissions
  • Dividends from stocks and investments
  • Employment bonuses
  • Self-employed earnings
  • Disability payments
  • Social Security benefits
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Annuities
  • Interest from investments
  • Rental Income from Property
  • Veteran’s benefits
  • Pensions
  • Private or Government Retirement benefits


What happens if you do not pay United States Child Support?


Many parents do not pay child support payments believing they cannot be punished.


A parent that does not pay the full amount in child support nor keeps to the schedule can have a variety of punishments used against them.


  • Property seizure
  • Suspension of your business license
  • Suspension of your driver’s license
  • Interception of tax refund
  • Wage garnishment
  • Arrest and time in jail


The non-payment of child support is a serious offense. Parents should continue to make payments on time and in full to prevent being punished.

Editor in Chief - Child Support Hub at Child Support Hub LLC | Website | + posts

Mary Newman is a child support expert and the go-to authority on all matters related to child support on the ChildSupportHub.com website. With over 20 years of experience, Mary has developed a deep understanding of child support laws, regulations, and procedures, making her an invaluable free resource for parents navigating the complexities of child support. Her extensive experience has given her unique insights into the challenges that parents face when dealing with child support issues, and she is passionate about helping parents understand their rights and obligations. Mary is deeply committed to helping parents understand their options when it comes to child support. Mary's goal is to help parents achieve a fair and equitable child support arrangement that benefits both the children and the parents.