Which States Approve Higher Child Support Payments?


How states calculate the amount of child support that should be awarded to a custodial parent and paid by the non-custodial parent varies from country to country. Generally however, one of three models will be used to determine the base amount of child support owed.

Under federal law, states are required to establish guidelines to create a uniform method of calculating child support in each state, but there is no set of national guidelines creating a wide disparity in the amounts awarded from state to state. The guidelines should be publicly available and reviewed every four years.

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Child Support Guidelines

The Office of Child Support Enforcement oversees the federal child support enforcement program in the United States. In the United States, the model guidelines all have certain aspects in common which are set out in each state’s “Child Support Guidelines Worksheet”, which determines the standard calculation of child support.

All guidelines contain provisions for calculating household income. Federal law requires states to consider health care expenditures for children, through insurance or other means when establishing child support guidelines.

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Most guidelines include a “self-sufficiency reserve”, which is equal to 125 percent of the federal poverty level for a one-person family, for the parent who will pay child support. Similarly, most states incorporate special additions into the presumptive support formula for take into account child care expenses, custody situations and special deductions for changes in marital status.

Three Models for Determining Child Support

Majority of states use “revenue split model” where child support is calculated so that the child or children receive from their parents the same part of the income that they would otherwise receive if the parents lived together. This is based on the idea that parents generally pool their income for the benefit of all household members to cover family expenses, including those of children.

Six states use the “income percentage model”, either fixed or variable, where child support is generally based on a percentage of the non-custodial parent’s income. Depending on the custody arrangement, or the number of nights the non-custodial parent has with the child or children, may affect the formula for calculating what the paying parent is obligated to compensate the other.

Only three states use the “Melson formula”, similar to the income splitting model, but takes into account the basic needs of children as well as both parents.

The District of Columbia calculates child support using a hybrid model. The first compensation is determined using the variable percentage model, adjusting the income level according to the income of the non-custodial parent. Then subtracting from that an amount calculated with a formula based on the custodial parent’s income. You can find calculations for your state’s formula in World Population Review.

Which states award higher child support?

A Custody X Change study of state formulas for calculating the typical monthly child support payment in 2019 showed a gaping difference in typical monthly payments between states, even when parents’ financial circumstances are similar. The cost of living for a particular state was generally not reflected in the amount determined.

The researchers developed a scenario to calculate the average child support payment required by each state. Based on a hypothetical family using parental income data from the Pew Research Center, they looked at a family with a mother, a father and two minor children, aged 7 and 10.

The study gave primary custody to the mother, about 80 percent of custodial parents are the mother, and calculated that she retained 65% of parenting time, the national average. The annual income for the mother was set at $45,000 and $55,000 for the father, Then the researchers used each state’s formula to calculate the average payment a non-custodial father would make based on those amounts.

Five states with the highest average child support

Massachusetts $1,187
Nevada $1,146
New Hampshire $1,035
Rhode Island $1,014
Hawaii $1,014
Source: Guard X Change

In Massachusetts, the average monthly payment, which is the highest nationally, was $1,187 per month. On the other hand, just six hours away in Virginia, which has the lowest average monthly payment, the father could be expected to pay $402, almost two-thirds less.

They calculated that the typical average child support payment nationwide was $721 per month. Research has found that interstate child support rates are not directly correlated to the cost of living in those states. Only Hawaii, among the five most expensive states to live in, ranked among the top 10 child support calculations.

Two of the other four states, Maryland and New Jersey, ranked in the bottom ten states with the lowest payouts. While the other two, California and New York were respectively below and above the national average with average monthly payments calculated at $566 and $895.


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