What formulas are used to determine child support?

When many people consider the prospect of paying child support, they likely think that process will be “fair.” Now, the idea of what is “fair” paradoxically changes from person to person, which makes child support such a tricky process. But, in general, people who are going into child support discussions think that the ultimate determination will take all the factors into account and will come out to be an affordable and “fair” payment.

However, in reality, many people are upset at the final determination for child support, mainly because the perception that they have going into the discussions is too high or not in line with how child support actually works. Every state in the U.S. uses a formula to determine how much a parent pays another parent in child support, should this factor be involved in the divorce.

There are three types of child support formulas that are utilized by states to make these determinations. One is called the Income Shares Model, which means that the support payments will be the same proportion as if the parents were still living together. Arizona utilizes the Income Shares Model.

Another formula is called is called Percentage of Income. In this model, the custodial parent’s income is not considered. Instead, the noncustodial parent’s income is all that matters, and a certain percentage of that parent’s income will constitute the child support payments.

Third and finally, there is the Melson Formula, which is a modified version of the Income Shares Model that is only used by three states. It takes other factors into account, such as self-sustainability of the parents, to come up with child support payments.

Source: Deseret News, “The disconnect between how we view child support laws and how they actually work,” Mandy Morgan, June 2, 2015

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