It’s well-known that kids are expensive. When you pay child support for some or all of your children, the cost is very apparent. Is there a point where you don’t have to pay child support because you have so many children?
If you remain with the parent of your children, and they agree, you may not have to pay child support. However, having additional children will not terminate your support obligations to your existing children. There is no limit to the number of children for whom you may be ordered to pay support.
In certain cases, a mom with many kids would prefer to stay in a relationship and receive support instead of filling for child support since she knows it would be hard to collect a large amount of child support. Those personal choices led to the myth that having many kids exempt you from child support.
The calculation and enactment of child support orders can be confusing. In this article, we will take a look at the child support mechanism and how child support is calculated. After you learn how child support is calculated, you will be able to better foresee how family growth impacts the orders.
- For Which Children Do I Pay Child Support?
- Isn’t There a Limit on How Much Wages Can be Garnished
- Child Support Caps
- How is Child Support Calculated
- What Happens when You Miss Child Support Payments
- Takeaways Regarding Additional Children
For Which Children Do I Pay Child Support?
You will pay child support for any children for which there is a child support order issued by the court. Child support orders are entered at the state court level in every state.
The exact process and methods vary from state-to-state. However, some basic principles do hold true no matter which state you are in.
They come into place two different ways: through the state’s child support agency or through a private case like a divorce or custody case.
Support Orders through a Divorce or Custody Case
Either parent can file a petition with the court for a dissolution of marriage or for a custody determination. Custody cases are for non-married parents.
As part of either case, the court will enter orders regarding the parenting time, decision-making, and financial support of the child.
Expect to receive a child support order when the relationship between you and the other parent ends. Sometimes people wait awhile to file these cases because both parents are on the same page in the beginning.
As a result, even if you think you have avoided a child support case for a child, if you are no longer with that parent, one could happen at any time.
Even if the two of you are still in a relationship, non-married parents can open a child custody case at any time.
Child Support Agencies
Each state has a child support agency. That agency is responsible for the policy and administrative issues surrounding child support.
The state agencies also have local, county-based subdivisions that are responsible for individual cases. These agencies can initiate a child support proceeding.
These child support orders can be distinguished from the private orders above by the IV designation (IV-D, IV-E, and IV-A). This refers to Title IV of the Social Security Act of 1975.
These cases are initiated when a parent is receiving public assistance and when the child is placed outside of the home. As a result, neither you nor the other parent may have any control over whether a child support case is initiated.
This is a matter of public policy. If one parent needs public assistance to feed or house a child, then the state turns to the other parent for partial support. Similarly, if the child is placed outside of the home, both parents may be responsible for child support.
CSE also assists in establishing paternity, finding a parent, establishing a child support order, and enforcing child support orders. They can open or enforce a case if either parent asks.
Isn’t There a Limit on How Much Wages Can be Garnished
Regular debt holders are usually limited to garnishing 25 percent of your wages. Child support is considered a high-priority debt, and up to 60 percent of your wages may be garnished.
If you have other children, the court may authorize that the maximum amount be reduced to 50 percent. As always, check your specific state laws.
Child Support Caps
Some states cap that amount of income the court considers when determining child support. No state caps the number of children for which you must provide support. Realistically, if you continue to have children, your income will simply continue to be further reduced with each order. Because percentages are involved, it is unlikely your support order will ever reach zero.
Even if you have zero income, states either impute minimum wage or enter an order for a nominal amount – often $50 per month. As you will see below, there are serious consequences for skipping child support payments, no matter how small.
How is Child Support Calculated
Child support is calculated according to the statutory guidelines of each state. This means the manner of calculation is set in law.
Visit the National Conference of State Legislatures to easily find the guidelines for your state.
There are three child support models states choose from when codifying their support calculation method.
- Income Share Model – This calculation is the most common one used by 41 states. The concept behind this model is that the child should be entitled to the same amount of support as if the parents were still in one household. It does not take into account the greater expenses parents each have as a result of living in two separate homes.
- Percentage of Income Model – This one uses only the non-custodial parent’s income to calculate child support. Six states use this model.
- Melson Model – Only three states use the Melson Model. It is more complex than the other two. It uses the income shares model as the base, but it implements several public policy decisions to ensure each parent’s needs are met.
Child Support Calculations for Multiple Children
Support orders are impacted by the number of children each parent has. The way those children impact support orders depend on several factors.
Remember, child support guidelines vary by state. You will have to determine how your state handles multiple children in whichever scenario applies to you.
Multiple Children All with the Same Partner
When two people have more than one child together, the support order will address support for all the kids in one order. As a child ages out of the child support system, the order can be refigured to consider the remaining children.
Note that going from two children to one on a support order does always result in a halved support order.
Support Orders Entered when You Have Previously Born Children
Most states allow each parent to deduct the amount of support they pay for other children from their gross income. This scenario applies if either of you already have children for whom you pay support or who live with you.
Essentially, this reduces the income used to calculate the new child support payment. This is much like tax deductions reducing taxable income, meaning you pay less out of pocket.
Support Order Modifications after You Have More Children
If you have support orders in place, and then go on to have more children, whether you can change your existing orders is a good question.
The answer is that it depends on which state you live in.
Several states have provisions specifically prohibiting the modification of child support orders to take into account after-born children. Those states went with the public policy that previous children do not have less needs just because a parent had more children.
Other states recognize that that thinking ultimately hurts the new child who is not at fault. Those states do allow the support of after-born children to be considered in a support order modification.
What Happens when You Miss Child Support Payments
Remember that child support is considered the property of a child. When payments are missed, the receiving parent can pursue full payment.
When Child Support Enforcement is Not Involved
If the parent receiving child support does not have a case with CSE, they have limited options. They can file paperwork with the court to notify the judge of the lack of payment. They will also request specific action.
Parents can request permission to establish an income assignment. If granted, the other parent will send court-authorized paperwork to your employer or bank. In this scenario, the payments will be automatically deducted from your wages or bank account in the future.
Parents can also request an entry of judgment for the amount not paid. This gives the ability to also collect on the back amount rather than just future payments.
Finally, they can also request the court enter any sanctions under the court’s jurisdiction. This varies from state to state, but may include jail time.
Child Support Enforcement of Support Orders
As a state agency, the office of Child Support Enforcement has many more options available for enforcement. A parent can open a case with them to get help enforcing a support order.
CSE does have the ability to suspend your driver’s license, but that is not all. They can also suspend your professional license, intercept your tax return, intercept any gambling winnings, deny you a passport, and more.
Takeaways Regarding Additional Children
At best, the idea that you can stop paying child support when you have a lot of children is an urban legend. At worse, it is a risky move that will hurt all the children involved.
Many disagreements regarding child support stem from disgust of giving money to an ex. Try to remember that your child is also in the middle of this disagreement.
Perhaps you think that the other parent’s spending is frivolous. Maybe it is. But the solution is not to make your child go without.
Kirbee is a licensed attorney and real estate broker, but DIY projects and gardening call to her. She loves being at home with her husband, daughter, and dog and investing her time and energy into projects to make their home a unique and comfortable place for all of them.