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State Laws Follow 1 of 3 Formulas

Do all states follow the same rules to figure child support percentages? The answer is no.

Each state has their own child support law they tend to follow one of three basic models: Flat Percentage, Income Shares, and the Melson Formula.

Each state is different, but most states take into consideration the income levels (both earned and unearned) of both the parents as well as the expenses associated with raising the child.

Complicated formulas and schedules are used. However, keep in mind that a judge has the authority to deviate from the guidelines if he or she determines that a particular situation warrants it.

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Here Are The Basics For The 3 Formulas

1. Flat Percentage The child support amount is based on a percentage of the non-custodial parent's income and the number of children they are supporting.

The states that follow this rule are: Alaska, Arkansas, District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

2. Income Shares The majority of states follow this model which is based on the income of both parents and the number of children they have. The court first adds the net income (or in some states, the gross income) of both parents. Then the court consults a table which assesses the total obligation of support as a percentage of the parents' combined incomes and the number of children.

The court multiplies the combined incomes by the percent figure listed in the table and obtains a dollar amount that the children need for support. Then the responsibility to pay that support is divided between the parents in proportion to each parent's income.

(For example: if the court has determined that the children need $1000 a month and the parents make a combined $100,000 annually, in which the father makes $60,000 annually and the mother makes $40,000 annually, the father will be required to pay $600 a month and the mother $400 a month.)

The states that follow this model are: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.

3. Melson Formula Child support percentage is calculated based on a variety of factors (the "Melson Factors"). These factors include both parents' incomes and the needs of the child. Only Delaware, Hawaii and Montana follow this model.

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