Income Shares Method of Calculating Support

by Rob Jennings

Pursuant to federal law, all states now have presumptive guidelines for figuring child support. "Presumptive" means that the court will presume that the amount of child support specified by the guidelines is sufficient to meet the children's needs unless either party can show that it is not. Considerable variation exists among the states, however. The income shares model is just one of three frameworks underlying child support guideline systems.

Underlying Assumption

The income shares model applies the underlying idea that parents who are separated should spend the same proportion of their incomes on their children as parents who live together. Although the parents have split, the theory is, the children should not be made to suffer financially because of it. As such, if you live in an income shares state, the child support amount you pay under the guidelines reflects the state's idea of how much income you personally would contribute to the children's care if you were still living with the other parent.

How Income Shares Systems Work

While the amount of child support will vary from state to state given identical inputs, the basic mechanism of a guidelines calculation will be relatively the same across jurisdictions using the income shares model. The formula takes your income, your ex's income, medical insurance, work-related child care and any valid extraordinary expenses and uses these to calculate a child support obligation for one of you to pay the other. Most states apply different formulas to different child custody arrangements, so two cases with identical income and cost figures will produce different child support amounts if one couple splits custody but the other gives one party substantially less than the other.

Where the Formulas Come From

Each state has an official body responsible for developing and implementing its child support guidelines system, and the same body is generally responsible for reviewing the guidelines every few years to insure that the system keeps up with inflation and current economic research regarding what it costs to raise a child and what parents in certain income brackets spend on their offspring. In North Carolina, for example, this body is the Conference of District Court Judges. District court is where North Carolina family law cases are decided, and so its judges will be responsible for applying the guidelines.

Arguments Under the Income Shares Model

Although the guidelines amount is presumed to be an appropriate amount of support given your income, the law generally recognizes that certain extenuating circumstances may exist that can help you rebut the presumption. You or a member of your immediate family may suffer from a debilitating medical condition that requires a substantial part of your income, for example. As guidelines don't typically take your expenses into account, the guidelines amount may not be appropriate in your particular case. As such, the judge will usually be permitted to deviate from the guidelines figure and reduce your support if you're the payor or raise it if you're the recipient.

About the Author

A practicing attorney since 2003, Rob Jennings has written fiction and nonfiction since 2005, with his work appearing in a variety of print and online publications. He earned his Juris Doctor from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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