I get this question all the time for child support. What expenses go into a child support worksheet? How will it affect the outcome?
First, guideline worksheets and child support calculations vary from state to state. In New Mexico, the state legislature is responsible for passing child support statutes into law. These statutes outline the factors that go into a child support worksheet.
Passing child support statutes into law is a big undertaking and it doesn’t happen often, at least in my state. So, the last child support guidelines in New Mexico were updated in 2008. Statutes are the first place I go whenever I want to find out more about a legal topic.
The only problem with statutes is that they don’t cover every possible situation. You may read a statute and still have questions about how to apply it to your case.
This is where case law comes in. If parties don’t like the decision of a lower court, they have a right to appeal that decision to a higher court. Once a higher court makes a decision, it becomes ‘precedent,’ which is another form of law that you can use to argue a case.
So, if the answer isn’t clear, there are a number of authorities that can guide you. This outline will also help.
Income in the child support worksheet
In New Mexico, the worksheet requires the gross income of the custodial parent and the noncustodial parent. This is not true in all states. In some states, only the noncustodial parent’s income matters.
The statute in New Mexico provides a table for basic support obligation. You can find your basic support obligation with the combined income figure and number of children. These are predetermined numbers written into the law. The statute gives guidance up to $30,000.
Most families have a combined income of less than $30,000. If your combined income is higher, there is case law that provides guidance on calculating the basic support obligation.
What if you don’t have income? Generally, the Court imputes parties to the minimum wage for the county they reside in though there are exceptions to this rule.
Number of days with child
Timesharing is a factor that affects the child support obligation. In New Mexico, the two main types of worksheets are the basic worksheet and shared responsibility.
The basic worksheet is for parents who are on a basic visitation schedule. So, one parent has the child or children less than 35% of the time. If your visitation schedule is every other weekend, you would be in this category.
If both parties have the child at least 35% of the time, the shared responsibility worksheet is used. Since both parents are presumably sharing the child rearing expenses, the calculation for this worksheet reflects that and can result in a lower obligation.
A common visitation schedule for shared responsibility is 9/5 timesharing. In a two week period, the child is with parent A for nine days and then parent B for five days.
Healthcare premium expenses
This is the cost for healthcare premiums only. If you pay for health insurance for your child, whether it’s private, employer-based, or a government marketplace plan, you can receive a credit on the worksheet.
One of the biggest issues I come across in practice is calculating the amount for the child only. Often, your health insurance premium covers multiple individuals. You may pay this premium weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.
How do you calculate the correct amount for the worksheet? The easiest way to do this is to go to your benefits site and print out your benefits rate sheet. This shows the premium cost for employee only, employee plus spouse, employee plus one child, family coverage, etc.
Most calculations require deducting the employee only cost from your total premium and then dividing by the number of children on your plan to get the cost per child.
The cost for childcare is credited to the parent who pays for it. Usually, a court requires daycare statements and proof of payment for the credit.
If daycare costs are inconsistent throughout the year, the court can take the total cost and divide by twelve. If your daycare expenses are subsidized by the state, you can still get credit for the portion you pay out of pocket.
Expenses in this category also include registration fees, summer camps, and before and after school care. They can also include childcare payments to family members if they happen to watch your children after school because you are working. In this case, proof might include a notarized letter from your family member along with payment receipts.
This category is for extraordinary expenses only. Things like school supplies and school clothes are not extraordinary expenses, even though they sometimes come with a hefty price tag.
Medical costs can be extraordinary if they are consistent, monthly costs that are out of pocket. An example is counseling or therapy.
It also includes transportation costs for timesharing, especially if one parent is doing most of the picking up and dropping off.
Lastly, the statute allows for extraordinary educational expenses. For example, the extra educational costs for a special needs child. This category may or may not include private school tuition.
Final thoughts on a child support worksheet
Families and financial situations change constantly. The Court’s job in establishing or modifying child support is difficult because there is not a perfect number that is going to suit both parties’ needs for long periods of time.
Life happens. We change jobs, get raises, or even lose jobs. Our children go through many changes as well, and their costs go up and down as they grow. To add to all of this, it takes time and money to get into court for a hearing.
None of this is easy. The child support worksheet can be mentally, emotionally and financially taxing if you let it. In the end, child rearing is expensive in America, that’s just a fact. But it’s so worth it for children to grow up knowing that both parents are providing for them.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide legal advice or suggest a guaranteed outcome as individual situations may vary.