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If this is your first time navigating the in’s and outs of child custody and support payments, chances are you aren’t too familiar with the process and the way to calculate payments. That’s where we come in. Following, you will find a guide to the what, why, and how of child support as it stands today. Knowing the details behind what you’re paying or receiving is important to making sure that all needs are met and every party is financially stable. Following is a good rule of thumb for any person in any state facing child custody proceedings and decisions.

Child Support Payments: What to Know

How are the payments calculated?

Child support payments are based upon the needs of the child and the income of each parent. Because these things can change over the years, child support payments are adjustable after a certain period of time. By doing this, any time one or the other parent faces a significant change in income— there can be a re-evaluation before the period of time has passed.

What do the child support payments cover?

These payments cover four different categories: shelter, clothing, food, and health care. These are the basics that a basic agreement will cover. Extracurricular activities, entertainment, and electronics, are not qualified uses for the support payments. Of course, every child custody agreement can be different— and if there are certain things you might need help paying for, that is something to discuss with your lawyer, and to be agreed upon by each party.

What is the standard period that a child custody agreement stands for, barring a substantial change in income?

The standard period of time is four years for any custody agreement. After those four years, you can assume that the household and the child have a new set of needs. At this time, both parties can re-evaluate and make changes to an agreement if they feel it necessary.

Who pays what?

Usually there will be one parent with physical custody. This will be the parent that your child lives with. Therefore, this is the parent that will receive the support payments— being that they ‘carry the majority of the load’ under the eyes of the law.

Navigating child custody and support for the first time can be tricky. And knowing the right way to go about it can save you time, heartache, and money. So, do your research, speak with an attorney, and find what works for you and your arrangement.