Federal law requires that each state: (1) establish criteria under which application of the guidelines might be unjust or inappropriate, and require written findings by the judge as to why the guideline amount is inappropriate; and (2) require that the guidelines also be used for any subsequent modification of the award. In accordance with the FSA, state child support guidelines were required to:
- Take into consideration all earnings and income of the noncustodial parent;
- Be based on specific criteria and result in the computation of the support amount; and
- Provide for the child’s health care needs, through health insurance coverage or other means.
In response to the federal mandate, states devised different models for calculating child support awards, including:
- Income Shares Model: Based on the concept that a child should receive the same proportion of parental income that would have been received by the child if the parents had not divorced (39 states, including California and Florida).
- Percentage of Income Model: Support is based on a percentage of the noncustodial parent’s income, regardless of custodial parent’s income (nine states, including Illinois and New York, and the District of Columbia).
- Melson Formula Model: A more complex version of the income shares model, which factors in each parent’s self-support needs, the standard of living allowance, and other considerations (two states: Delaware and Hawaii).
Often the court will give credits within these guidelines to parents who pay for the costs of child care, visitation, health insurance, and other costs associated with raising children.
Kirk C. Stange of Stange Law Firm, PC is a family law attorney in St. Louis, Missouri.