How Child Custody and Child Support Are Related: Master the Numbers that Matter
Written by: Megan Dell
People going through divorce or in a family law case often wonder how child support is calculated. Read on to learn how child custody and child support are related and the most significant factors for calculating the amount of child support.
South Carolina’s Child Support Guidelines
S.C. Code Ann. Section 43-5-580(b) directs the Department of Social Services, specifically the Office of Child Support Enforcement, to establish guidelines for the calculation of child support. A copy of the Child Support Guidelines, last updated in 2014, is available on the Department’s website.
The Custody Schedule Affects Child Support (But Not A Lot)
The Child Support Guidelines include 3 worksheets to calculate child support obligations. The first step is to determine which worksheet is appropriate for the circumstances.
- Worksheet A is appropriate when the non-custodial parent has fewer than 109 overnights per year with the child.
- Worksheet B is appropriate when there is more than one child, and the children’s physical custody is divided between the parents so there is at least one child in each parent’s household.
- Worksheet C is appropriate when the non-custodial parent has between 109 and 128 overnights per year with the child.
Because the amount of time each parent spends with the child directs whether to use Worksheet A or Worksheet C, many parents believe child support payments will be substantially different if they get joint physical custody of the child. Generally, selection of the appropriate worksheet is how child custody affects child support.
Truly, if the non-custodial (or visiting) parent has more than 109 overnights with the child, then Worksheet C includes instructions on how to adjust the obligation resulting from Worksheet A to accommodate the additional overnights.
Child Support with 50-50 Custody
Many people believe that if they can get shared physical custody (or “50/50 custody”) of their child, then neither parent will be required to pay child support to the other. In most situations, that is not true.
Each Parent’s Income
Each parent’s monthly income is considered when determining child support. If there is a higher earning parent, then it is likely child support will be paid between the parents, regardless of the parenting schedule.
It is also important to note the Family Court is not limited to consideration of each parent’s actual income. Instead, the judge can consider each parent’s potential income and, based on a finding the parent is voluntarily underemployed, can impute income to that parent. Pay or receipt of alimony is also considered when determining a parent’s income.
Other Children in the Home and Other Child Support Obligations
The South Carolina Child Support Guidelines explicitly provide that the Family Court is to consider whether a parent has other children in their home or child support obligations for other children.
Expenses for the Children
After the custody schedule and each parent’s income is considered, the Family Court also considers specific expenses incurred for the children’s benefit.
The Child Support Guidelines direct that consideration of the following expenses when calculating child support:
- Health insurance premiums paid for the benefit of the children.
- Work-related childcare expenses that allow the parent to be employed or seek employment.
- Extraordinary medical expenses incurred for the benefit of the children.
Deviations from the Child Support Guidelines
In some circumstances, it can be appropriate to deviate from the Child Support Guidelines. Deviation may be appropriate when the children incur educational expenses, either parent has significant consumer debt, the family has more than six children, either parent is required to contribute to a pension, or there is a substantial disparity between the parents’ incomes.
To ensure the Family Court is well-informed about your income and the other parent’s income, it is important to seek advice from an experienced child support lawyer who can help you accurately complete the financial declaration and go through the discovery process.