Child support in the jurisdiction where I practice divorce and family law (Utah) is, in my experience and estimation, not too high or too low. I’ll explain (in basic terms) why I see it that way:
First, let’s assume a couple with three minor children divorces.
Second, assume that one parent makes more money than the other, either because he/she simply earns more at his/her job than the other parent or because only one parent works while the other is a stay-home parent.
Third, assume one parent grosses $5,000 per month and the other parent grosses $1,800 per month (for a combined gross monthly income of $6,800).
Fourth, assume the parent making less money has primary custody of the parties’ minor children (a schedule by which the noncustodial parent (i.e., the parent who has the children in his custody less than the other, and yes, it’s usually Dad who is the noncustodial parent, so that’s why I use the “his” adjective)
Fifth, assume Dad and has the children in his care and custody every other weekend from Friday to Monday morning, plus one weekday overnight per week.
Now we’ll analyze:
Utah bases child support on the gross, pre-tax incomes of both parents (don’t worry, Utah law does not treat gross income as net income; it takes taxes and other factors into account before applying a mathematical formula to the calculation of child support).
When you run the income numbers for each parent through the Utah child support calculator based upon the child support calculation guidelines, it estimates that parents with a combined monthly gross income of $6,800 per month spend about $1,577 per month on their children.
Then the child support guidelines take into account how many overnights the children spend with each parent to make further adjustments before determining the noncustodial parent’s monthly child support payment to the custodial parent.
In our hypothetical, the monthly child support obligation for the noncustodial parent is $875 per month. If Dad pays $875 per month, that means Mom’s share of the $1,577 per month that it costs to provide financially for the child is $702.
That comes out to Dad paying (not taking into account Mom’s contribution to the children’s financial support) $291.67 per month per child (so I’ll round down to $291 just to be conservative).
The USDA keeps figures for the costs of raising children. They’re numbers are reasonable, so I will use them in this analysis.
The USDA says that 29% of the costs of raising a child is for housing the child and 18% goes to feeing the child. 18% of $291 is $52.38. 29% of $291 is $84.39. So 47% for housing and food, leaving 53% to cover everything else.
The USDA calculates that the monthly cost of a “moderate” food plan (as opposed to the “thrifty”, “low-cost” and “liberal” food plans) food for a male child of 14–18 years (girls eat less, according to the USDA) is approximately $258.
Now don’t forget that Mom also has a child support obligation—just not to Dad, but to the kids. So while Dad’s $875 per month will cover food for each child, and leave about $33 for other expenses, remember that Mom has income too. And not just the $1,800 she earns, but she likely receives alimony of about $1,000. So Mom brings in $1,800 in earned income (let’s say that comes to a net, after tax amount of $1,620), plus $1,000 tax free alimony, plus a tax fee $875. That comes to $3,495 to support 3 children 220 overnights per year and to support Mom 365 days per year.
So does Dad pay too much in child support here? It doesn’t appear to me that he does. Should he pay more?
Well, if Dad has a gross monthly income of $6,000 and pays 12% in taxes, then his net, after tax income is $4400. Subtract from that $875 in child support (subtotal $3,525). Then subtract $1,000 per month for alimony (TOTAL: $2,525 for Dad to live on each month). So no, Dad is not paying too little. Indeed, he can’t pay much more.
Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277