Texas Flag
Texas Divorce Laws

FAQ: What is the Average Child Support Payment in America?

Michael Tierney
December 26, 2022

Divorce is never easy for the couple, but too many overlook the impact divorce has on the children involved. While children are not the ones filing for divorce, they suffer some of the most significant ramifications of the entire process.

For children, divorce means their life as they know it has been irreversibly altered and that their family is separating. While divorcing couples can use several tactics to protect their children's mental health during this process, the situation with their kids affects the divorce process.

Custody arrangements are one of the most complicated parts of the divorce process and a major source of conflict between divorcing couples. Despite the complexity of custody, it also brings the question of child support.

Child support is one of the primary responsibilities of a parent following the custody arrangement. The support payments are critical to the child's financial security, but everyone knows that raising a child is not cheap. Parents invest thousands of dollars in raising their children and ensuring they have everything they need.

Usually, the incomes of both parents contribute to the child-rearing process and are taken from joint accounts. Following the divorce, those joint accounts usually get closed, and one parent contributes from their funds. The cost of raising a child can raise concerns about how much in child support the custodial parent can expect from the non-custodial parent.

What Is the Definition of Child Support?

Child support is a well-known concept that virtually everyone understands, though some details might not be common knowledge. The trick is that negotiating child support can be more complicated than the average person realizes.

Solution As for what child support is, it is the financial obligation of the non-custodial parent to pay regular support to help the custodial parent finance the child's needs.

Child support is the only support payment that is inescapable if the non-custodial parent wants to retain their parental rights. Even those who do not are unable to waive their parental rights to avoid owing child support. Child support payments are designed to ensure both parents contribute to the child's needs and, therefore, are one of the most important parts of a divorce.

The parent expected to pay child support payments is determined based on the custody arrangement imposed by the courts. While some couples can negotiate the custody arrangements themselves, the court system usually determines custody based on each parent's ability to raise the child.

Mother Raising Their Child

Fortunately, most court systems aim to keep both parents a consistent presence in the child's life. Hence, the arrangement usually ensures that the non-custodial parent can see their child regularly. Unfortunately, because the child is not being raised by the non-custodial parent full-time, they are expected to compensate the custodial parent for child-related expenses.

This is not to say you will be expected to write a check every time the custodial parent spends money on your child. Rather, the non-custodial parent pays a monthly sum that remains static until the child is a legal adult. While this might seem a relief, this only prevents you from overpaying child support. The monthly sum the non-custodial parent is expected to pay can be fairly high in some circumstances, and the payments must not be late. This begs the question, what is the average amount of child support you will be expected to pay?

What is the Average Amount of Child Support in America?

Child support payments are extremely important but determining how much you will be expected to pay is just as serious. Divorce is an extremely common outcome for modern marriages, with 50% of all unions sharing the result. With half the married couples in America getting divorced, a significant number of child support arrangements are calculated.

Solution That said, of the married couples in the country, only 18% have children under 18. With 50% of marriages ending in divorce, that means that, concerning the 50% statistic, only 9% end up negotiating child support.

Paying Child Support

Insofar as child support is concerned, the 9% statistic has kept the average sum of child support payments fairly low. This is especially true since the average American income is $31,133.00 annually.

Solution As a result, the average child support sum has middled at $430.00 monthly. This statistic was uncovered 12 years ago during a study by the Census Bureau.

While studies from 2010 are not generally applicable to today, the trend has persisted, and the $430.00 a month average has remained intact. However, it is important to remember that an average is not guaranteed. While you might be one of those who are expected to pay $430.00 a month in child support, everyone's total is calculated based on their personal situations.

How is Child Support Calculated?

One of the most frequently asked questions about child support is how the payment amounts are calculated. Because of the nature of these payments, a divorcing couple can rarely determine a fair payment amount. It is possible to draft an agreement with your spouse, but they must submit it to a judge for approval. Usually, the judge rejects the agreement drafted by the couple and takes responsibility for drafting an agreement that meets the standards of the legal system.

While this might seem unfair, the civil court system ensures that the judge assesses all the necessary factors when setting a child support payment. This way, the non-custodial parent is not expected to pay child support in any amount that would disadvantage them.

The biggest component of child support calculations is the income of each parent. Since the custodial parent's income will be the primary source of financial resources to raise the child, the non-custodial parent is expected to contribute once a month. While the custodial parent's income is extremely important to determining child support, it is not only theirs that warrants consideration.

The non-custodial parent's income is also a major factor when a judge assigns child support since they have needs independent of the child. The judge cannot dictate child support payments that compromise the financial stability of the non-custodial parent. Therefore, the non-custodial parent's income determines more about how much child support they owe than the custodial parent's income. The child support rates will even ensure that the non-custodial parent does not suffer financially if their main source of income is a minimum-wage job.

Calculating Child Support

While each parent's income is extremely important to the judge's determination of fair child support rates, it is only one detail. Other factors can impact the child support rates, with each factor possibly increasing or decreasing the set rates. These include:

  • Previous Support: If either parent receives child support from a previous marriage, it can directly affect the support negotiations for your current divorce. If you are the one paying support for a previous marriage, it can lower the amount of child support you have to pay your current spouse.
  • Previous Children: If either parent has a child from a previous marriage, they are responsible for raising full-time, which can also affect the negotiations. Parents raising a child full-time might not be able to pay as much child support for subsequent marriages. In some cases, it might impact the child support they get from the child's other parent.
  • Costs: If the non-custodial parent is responsible for essential expenses like health insurance or daycare services, they might end up paying less for child support. The same is true for parents paying union dues or having funds garnished from their paychecks.
  • Age: Because the cost of care for children changes as they age, the subsequent child support payments can increase depending on their age. Therefore, if the child is at an age with additional expenses, the child support payments may increase in response.

These details are important in determining a fair child support arrangement for divorcing couples. While the exact negotiations might vary based on the state, these universal variables will likely impact your child support arrangement. Once the judge thoroughly examines each parent's financial situation and the child's needs, they will impose a support agreement on the couple. While this agreement might be sufficient for the immediate situation, it might not be viable later. This means there is one last question that we must answer.

Can Child Support Arrangements Be Altered?

With an average child support payment of less than $500.00 a month, you might think it is impossible to alter your child support arrangement. It is possible to alter the arrangement, but it is extremely difficult to accomplish. The sentiment that the low child support average prevents alteration is part of why judges are not keen on altering their initial decree.

Judges consider all the important details of each spouse before drafting a child support agreement. While this is designed to minimize the financial impact of the payments on the non-custodial parent, situations change. Because no one can be expected to be in the same situation for multiple years, it is possible to request an adjustment from a judge.

While the judges are reluctant to alter an existing child support arrangement, you can request an alteration based on the same details used to create the original agreement. However, the caveat is that the circumstances around those details must have changed significantly since the original agreement was created.

Requesting Child Support Alteration

The main changes a judge will consider valid include:

  • Income Changes: If the income of the custodial parent increases or the income of the non-custodial parent decreases, it allows the non-custodial parent to petition for a reduction. Conversely, if the custodial parent's income decreases or the income of the non-custodial parent increases, the custodial parent can petition for an increase. However, the decreased incomes must be involuntary changes rather than a willing reduction of either parent's paychecks.
  • Child Needs: As children age, they can develop learning disabilities, chronic health conditions, or physical disabilities that require costly aid. This sudden spike in childcare costs can make the initial child support arrangement insufficient, and the custodial parent can request an increase. Alternatively, a child can overcome certain issues that the non-custodial parent was helping with financially. This can permit the non-custodial parent to request a reduction.
  • Number of Children: Eventually, children grow up and no longer depend on their parents. Once a child becomes a legal adult and has their own source of income, their parents are not expected to finance all their needs. This could void the non-custodial parent's child support obligation for that child.

While the odds of successfully altering your child support arrangement are slim, the above reasons are likely to warrant consideration from the judge. Ultimately, child support is too important to be waived, but it can be adjusted to suit altered circumstances.

Learn the Law

Child support arrangements are an inescapable and essential part of divorce for couples with children. Having a child is an extremely important decision; once you have one, you are bound to them forever. Even if the union from which they were born ends, both parents are legally required to maintain a financial presence in the child's life and a physical presence. One parent will be expected to pay child support while the other contributes more directly to their daily needs.

This does not diminish the importance of the non-custodial parent but ensures that they contribute to the child's financial needs. Divorce can be difficult and contentious for both parents, and bringing a child through the process can be heartbreaking. Child support is only paid by the parent who is not granted primary custody, which makes some couples focus on securing custody.

Learning Divorce Law

Unfortunately, not everyone is suited to maintaining custody over a child, and they only seek it to avoid support payments. This means the parent who truly cares about their child's well-being must prepare themselves for the tactics their spouse might employ. Information is invaluable for divorce, and learning as much as possible can help ensure your child is in the best possible situation. We realize this is a difficult time, especially with your child's well-being on the line. However, we hope this article was helpful in some way or another to your situation.

We encourage you to share this article on Twitter and Facebook. Just click those two links - you'll see why.

It's important to share the news to spread the truth. Most people won't.

Written By:
Michael Tierney

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get Our Divorce Newsletter
Subscribe to receive information, free guides and tutorials