My husband was downsized from his job six years ago. We’d been paying an arm and a leg for childcare for our two young children, so we made the decision that he would stay home and care for them full time. In the meantime, my career took off. That was great for our bank accounts, but not for our marriage. It just isn’t working out, and we’ve both decided that divorce is in the cards. In one of our discussions, he brought up child support. That threw me for a loop. Will I have to pay my husband child support? How much? ~ Mona
Mona, a lot of professional, successful women like yourself are surprised to discover that they may be on the line for child support payments after a divorce. Child support is far more likely to go to mothers; however, as gender norms continue to evolve in our country, so do issues related to custody and child support. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18.3% of custodial parents were fathers, and 31.4% of custodial fathers were awarded child support in 2013. Let’s look at some of the factors that come into play here.
How Child Support Is Calculated
Every state has a specific set of guidelines that lays out how child support is calculated. These guidelines vary from state to state. Most guidelines take into consideration both your income and your husband’s income (though some states only take into consideration the income of the non-custodial parent) when determining if and how much child support is owed. The three biggest factors in determining whether you will owe child support is:
- Your custody arrangement
- Your income (and how much it differs from your spouse’s income)
- Your children’s special needs
If you gain full custody of your children, then you owing him child support will be a moot point. (Though it is possible that you will owe your husband alimony.) Additionally, the greater share of custody you have, the lower amount of child support you will likely owe. If your husband receives full custody and earns significantly less than you, there is a strong likelihood that you will owe him child support.
Again, if you have full custody of your children, then you really don’t need to worry about paying child support. However, if your husband has shared or full custody, then your income will come into play when calculating how much you may owe. Some states will take a flat percentage of your income. Many others will use a formula based on the difference between your income and your spouse’s income. The more you out-earn your husband, the greater amount of child support you’ll owe!
Mona, in your case, since your husband earns no income, you may be hit with a pretty big bill if he were to gain full custody of the kids.
The calculation states make when determining how much child support you owe can be flexible. If, for example, your children have expensive health care needs, are attending a private school, or require special schooling, you may have to pay even more in child support so that they can receive the care they need!
At the end of the day, if you really want to figure out if you’ll have to pay child support, we encourage you to work with an experienced divorce attorney. It also sounds like you and your husband are on relatively good speaking terms. Before you worry about child support, work with your spouse on a custody arrangement that you can both live with. Only once that has been worked out should you turn your attention to child support and possible spousal support as well!
Want to learn more about what to expect during divorce? Sign up for the next Second Saturday Divorce Workshop near you!