Tuesday Legal Tip: Child Support Amounts


Tuesday’s legal tips are a discussion of common legal questions I heard frequently from clients back when I practiced law. However, this is just information, not legal advice, so be sure to contact a lawyer about your specific situation.


Parents have a legal obligation to provide financial support for their children, regardless of whether the parents are married. That’s why states created child support guidelines, and parents who rely on monthly child support payments often have lots of questions about how their support amounts are calculated. Parents can pursue child support orders even while they are married, though most do not ask for support unless they are divorcing or were never married.

In the U.S., there are three basic models of support calculation, though each state’s method is slightly different.

  • The Income Shares Model gives the child a share of both parents’ income, though the custodial parent doesn’t actually have to pay support since she provides support by covering the child’s daily expenses. The noncustodial parent pays a support amount based on that parent’s share of the combined incomes of both parents. In other words, if the noncustodial parent makes 60% of the combined incomes of both parents, he’ll pay 60% of the child’s support, and the support amount is usually set by state statute.
  • The Percentage of Income Model sets support amounts as a straight percentage of the noncustodial parent’s income.
  • The Melson Formula calculates support using a complicated formula that takes the parent’s expenses into account. It attempts to ensure the noncustodial parent can support himself before taking some of his income to support his children.

Kansas uses the income shares model, as do most other states. And, state agencies can help custodial parents establish child support orders so they can begin receiving child support payments from the noncustodial parent.

In Kansas, the state child support agency is Kansas Child Support Services. They have offices all over the state, and caseworkers guide parents through the entire process.


Next Tuesday, we’ll explore enforcement options when parents don’t pay child support as ordered.



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