Child support is an issue that comes up in just about every contested case that I have involving children. Parents want to know whether or not they're paying the correct amount or receiving the correct amount. One of the best things anyone can do to know the answer to that question is to have, at the very least, a basic understanding of how family courts determine the appropriate amount of child support to be paid.
In South Carolina, the Department of Social Services has established guidelines for determine the amount of child support to be paid. These guidelines are based on what we call the Income Shares Model. This model looks to the parents' combined monthly income to determine a basic child support obligation.
The guidelines range from $750 per month worth of combined income all the way up to $360,000 per month of combined income. By knowing the combined income of both parents and the number of children to be supported, we can use the guidelines to determine the basic child support each is entitled to receive. By way of example, the guidelines tell us that if the parties earn a combined gross income of $6,200 per month and they share one child together, then that child is entitled to $859 in basic child support.
However, that is not the end of the calculation. We then have to look at what each parent contributes proportionally to the combined gross income. If, for example, the parties earn a combined gross income of $10,000, for example, and the non-custodial parent contributes 60% of that combined gross income ($6,000) a month. Then the non-custodial parent would pay 60% of the basic child support amount set forth by the guidelines. So, assuming the basic child support is $859 as set forth in the example above, the father would pay 60% of that $859 or $515 per month.
It is important to note that the basic child support amount does not account for work-related daycare costs and the amounts paid for the child(ren)'s health insurance premiums. Those amounts are dealt with outside of the guidelines but using the same formula, and are included in monthly child support payments. If for example, the custodial parent pays health insurance premiums for the child(ren) in the amount of $100 per month, then the non-custodial parent would pay 60% (using our example from above) of that health insurance premium. Similarly for work-related daycare costs, if the custodial parent pays $500, then the non-custodial parent would pay 60% of those costs, as well. Again, these payments are in addition to the basic support obligation set forth in the guidelines.
In summary, we can use the SC DSS child support guidelines to determine the appropriate amount of child support, but there is also a free calculator that you can use which can be found at www.state.sc.us/dss/csed. Once there, you will see a banner on the right where you can choose "Calculator" and this will take you directly to the tool where you can input the numbers for your case, including your income, your co-parent's income, how many children you are supporting, daycare costs, and health insurance premiums. The calculator will then give you an amount which will likely be a good estimate for how much child support you could expect to pay or receive.