Models of Child Support
Different states use different models to calculate child support awards, including the following:
Income Shares Model
The income shares model is based on the concept that a child should receive the same proportion of parental income that he or she would receive if the parents were still together. When the parents live together in the same household, their income is usually pooled and used for the benefit of the family.
This model computes the child support obligation in the following way:
- Determine the income of each parent and add them together
- Compare this income to a statutory child support table or schedule to get the basic child support obligation
- Add other expenses such as childcare and extraordinary medical expenses to the basic child support obligation to render a presumptive child support obligation
- Prorate the child support obligation between the parents based on their percentage of the total income
The income shares model is the most popular model, followed by these states:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
The percentage of income model bases the child support amount on a percentage of only the noncustodial parent’s income. The custodial parent’s income is not considered.
Percent of income model
Child support using this method is calculated as follows:
- Determine the non-custodial parent’s income
- Use a statutory table to determine the percentage of the non-custodial parent’s income that should be applied, based on the number of children
- Apply the percentage to the non-custodial parent’s income
- Make adjustments for add-ons or reductions
The following states use this model:
- North Dakota
Melson Formula Model
The Melson Formula Model is a more complicated version of the Income Shares Model. It incorporates a number of public policy considerations into it and considers the parents’ ability to take care of their own financial needs. A Delaware family court judge invented this formula. Delaware, Hawaii, and Montana use this model. A complicated formula determines the child support obligation, which uses a number of factors, such as each parent’s self-support needs and the standard of living allowance.
While these models may seem very different from each other, they have certain similarities. For example, they all consider that the parent will need to have some self-support. Additionally, they all have rules to impute income for a parent who is not working or underworking. All of the guidelines consider health care expenses for the child. Additionally, most state guidelines provide special formulas for shared custody, extraordinary visitation, support for other children and child care expenses.
For information on the model that your state uses and statutory references, click here.