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Child Support Calculators: Are They Accurate?

One of the most frequently asked questions in any child custody case is "How much child support will I need to pay?"

Many parents turn to online child support calculators to try to estimate what they will pay. But unless you and your co-parent have agreed between you on a child support payment, the judge's determination of what you owe could be different than what you see on the calculator. The judge's decision will be based on a number of factors.

This article provides information on why child support calculators can only provide an approximation of the child support you may owe.

What Is a Child Support Calculator?

Every state offers some way for parents to estimate child support payments. This tool is usually an online calculator that computes child support payments based on the financial information you input. The calculator usually resembles an online worksheet.

A child support calculator will request information, such as:

  • Each parent's monthly income
  • The percentage of time the child spends with each parent
  • Any benefits or tax credits you receive.

After entering this information, the child support calculator uses a state-specific formula to predict how much you or the other parent will owe in monthly child support payments.

The Calculator's Result May Not Be Accurate for Your Situation

A child support calculator gives you a ballpark idea of how much your child support payment might be, but it is not, and cannot be, absolutely accurate. There are too many factors that are considered when arriving at a child support decision.

For one thing, you may interpret your financial and living situation differently than a judge would. You may have assumed that your child will spend 25% of their time with you. The judge may order 50% time. That will impact the child support order.

Daycare costs, education costs, healthcare costs -- these are not part of the child support calculator. A judge, on the other hand, incorporates these into their child support calculation.

Judges follow the state's child support guidelines. These guidelines tend to be highly technical, which is why child support calculators are popular. They simplify complex calculations. The cost of simplification is some inaccuracy.

Parents Can Agree on a Different Amount

What if you feel that a child support calculator's figure is too low or too high? Can you arrange with the other parent to pay a different amount?

Yes, most states allow parents to negotiate their own child custody plans and child support agreements, as long as they are reasonable. However, the judge can modify that child support agreement if they believe the terms are unfair or not in the best interest of the child. The judge may be required to enter findings for deviating from the child support guidelines.

Get Answers to Your Questions About Child Support Calculations from an Attorney

Rather than relying on child support calculators, consult a family law attorney. A local child support lawyer can give you personalized legal advice.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified child support attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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