Q & A: Child Support Calculation Oddity

When calculating child support and medical support, for example, Parent A would pay $1492 in basic support and Parent B would pay $16 for medical so that Parent B would get a net amount of $1476. After double checking Parent B’s income, it became apparent that the income should be calculated higher by $16. After recalculating, Parent A now should pay $1476 in basic and parent B should pay $17 in medical so that parent B would receive a net amount of $1459.

By increasing Parent B’s gross income by $16, Parent B will now receive $17 less in net child support. What is the explanation for this oddity?

Changes in the obligor’s income are far more influential than changes in the obligee’s. An attorney cannot predict outcomes until he or she does the child support calculation.

If the obligor’s income increases, the combined parental income for child support (PICS) increases, the combined support increases, and the obligor’s percent of PICS increases. As a result, the obligor owes a greater percentage of a higher amount. If the obligor’s income decreases, the opposite is true.

However, if the obligee’s income increases, the combined PICS increases and the combined support increases, but the obligor’s percent of PICS decreases. The result is that the obligor owes a smaller percentage of a higher amount. These are offsetting effects. Most of the time there will be a small decrease, but not necessarily. The opposite is true if the obligee’s income decreases.

In practice, this result is not uncommon. It is good advice to tell the clients to check the calculator before consulting with the court. It is likely that the additional income of Parent B resulted in the combined PICS moving to the next highest category. Parent B’s percentage of PICS may have also changed by 1%. 

For example, Mom is a custodial parent and earns around $75,000 per year. Dad earns about half as much. Mom receives a raise, and now earns about $90,000 per year. Even though Dad’s income has not changed and Mom’s income actually increased, the end result after running the child support calculator is that Dad’s child support obligation increases.

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