In a divorce, one of the hardest adjustments for many of our clients is understanding that all income for what was previously one household now has to sustain two households – Mom’s house and Dad’s house. For some parents, this means returning to the workforce. For others, it means working longer hours or finding a higher-paying job. But for all parents, it means re-working a budget to accommodate less money coming in.
In order to ensure that children are provided for financially, courts will order child support. The amount of child support that a court orders depends on several things, like how much each parent makes, how many children there are, and how much time the children are spending with each parent. Overall, child support is ordered in accordance with the Arkansas Judiciary’s Administrative Order No. 10. Here are two common scenarios and how child support is determined in each of them:
Standard Visitation. For more information on standard visitation, why it’s ordered and what it means, see this link.
In standard visitation situations, the primary custodial parent spends more time with the children, and is therefore presumed to expend more money on things like food, clothing, gas, school supplies, daycare, etc. Therefore, the non-custodial parent is usually ordered to pay child support. Child support is ordered according to the Arkansas Child Support Charts, depending on how often the non-custodial parent gets paid. Child support is determined by the non-custodial parent’s “take-home pay” – that is, the paycheck amount after taxes, insurance, retirement, etc. are deducted.
For example, according to the Weekly Child Support Chart, a non-custodial parent who brings home $300 weekly and has three children will pay $126 per week in child support. Similarly, according to the Semi-Monthly Child Support Chart, a non-custodial parent who brings home $1,000 semi-monthly (on the 1st and 15th) and has two children will pay $307 semi-monthly in child support.
In cases where the non-custodial parent’s income exceeds what is listed on the child support charts, child support is ordered as a percentage of that parent’s take-home pay as follows:
One child = 15%
Two children = 21%
Three children = 25%
Four children = 28%
Five children = 30%
Six children = 32%
Joint Custody. Child support for joint custody agreements is determined a little bit different. In this situation, it is assumed that the children spend an equal amount of time with each parent; therefore, each parent is spending a comparable amount of money on expenses related to the children. Thus, child support is generally ordered only when there is a major discrepancy between each parent’s income.
In order to determine how much, if any, child support one parent should pay to the other in a joint custody situation, courts look at how much each parent would be ordered to pay in child support according to the Arkansas Child Support Charts, then subtract the lower amount from the higher amount.
For example, Mom and Dad, who are in the process of divorcing, have two children. Mom, who recently returned to the workforce, brings home $600 bi-weekly in income. Dad, who has been at the same job for years, brings home $2,000 bi-weekly. This is a significant discrepancy in earning. According to the Bi-weekly Child Support Charts, Mom, if ordered to pay child support, would pay $214 biweekly in child support. Dad, if ordered to pay child support, would pay $425 biweekly in child support. In ordering child support, then, the court would subtract the lower child support amount ($214) from the higher child support amount ($425), and order the higher-earning parent to pay child support to the lower-earning parent to assist with expenses associated with the children. Thus, Dad would likely pay to Mom $211 biweekly in child support.