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The facts of life

When parents separate and one of them has custody of the child, the noncustodial parent has to pay child support.


The amount is based on the noncustodial parent's net income — total income minus federal income tax, Social Security (6.2%), and Medicare (1.45%), union dues and expenses for health care coverage for the child.

According to federal guidelines, the amount of child support owed is as follows:

  • 1 Child = 20% of net income
  • 2 Children = 25%
  • 3 Children = 30%
  • 4 Children = 35%
  • 5 Children or more = 40%*

*These amounts are for multiple children with the same two biological parents. Guidelines are slightly different for multiple children with different mothers.

Making Healthy Choices
Why do the math? As you make those all-important decisions about relationships and parenthood, you need to know the facts of life. One fact of life is that the law will require you to pay a certain amount of child support if you have a child you do not live with.

The guidelines will tell you the amount of child support owed weekly. This is how much you'd have to pay if you had a child and didn't live with the child. Or it is the amount you would receive in child support if you were the custodial parent.

ExampleA noncustodial parent with one child earns $7 per hour. How much child support would he have to pay each month?
[Calculate answer]

So the answer, in the first example, is that for one child, the parent would pay 20% of income after adjustments, according to the guidelines. That's $209 per month in child support each month for a parent with an adjusted income of $1043. (That leaves the parent $834 to live on.)

Once again, here's how you calculate: Multiply hourly by 40, then by 52, then divide by 12 to get gross monthly income. Multiply gross income by .062 (6.2% Social Security) and by .0145 (1.45% for Medicare). Add these two numbers to the federal income tax and subtract the sum from the gross income. Consult the guidelines above to figure child support.

ExampleA noncustodial parent with two children earns $10 per hour. How much child support would she have to pay each month?
[Calculate answer]

Under the guidelines, for two children the parent would pay 25% of the adjusted income, or a little more than $360 per month in child support. At $10 per hour, working full time, that leaves the parent $1086 per month to live on.

These examples assume the parent works (or at least is paid for) a full 40-hour week every week of the year.


Talk about it
Healthy relationships
Teens as parents
When it's scary
Dating Violence
What's a parent?
The legal father
What to expect
What it takes
Facts of life
Team parenting
Tips for parents


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