Paying So Much Child Support With 50/50 Custody

While prevailing opinion (with some exceptions) may be that when an equal parenting arrangement has been created via a child custody order or agreement between parents – each parent should be responsible for the financial responsibilities of the children in their own home.  No money in the form of court ordered child support should change hands.  Unfortunately, that’s not real life in all but the fewest circumstances.

Many circumstances are considered when child support orders are created.  Many significant financial matters are rolled into the equation and they may include all or some of the following:

  • Income of each parent (for certain)
  • Residential time the children spend with each parent
  • Income tax deductions
  • Insurances (health, dental, life)
  • Extra childcare costs
  • Other expenses as appropriate

The methodology can vary quite significantly from state-to-state, so it’s important that you review your state’s child support statutes for specifics.  In “flat-rate” states, even in a 50/50 child custody arrangement, one parent is designated the residential or primary custodial parent for child support purposes and the other parent is paying a percentage of their income in accordance with the law regardless.  In income-sharing states, well, formulae vary, too.

We’ll focus on income-shares model states for the purposes of this article.

While the stated intent of child support is to provide for the children the benefit of the same lifestyle to which they were accustomed when the family was intact makes little sense, that’s the “philosophy” of those who wrote the statutes.  Unfortunately, the reality is that one household has now become two and that alone means that the children will not enjoy the same lifestyle as before the family break-up without both parents managing to obtain substantial increases in income.

The bottom line is that the income-shares model is simply a redistribution of wealth from the higher earning parent to the lower earning parent.  Nothing demonstrates this reality more than the child support which is ordered in an equal parenting or 50/50 custody arrangement in income-shares model states.

For the purposes of the forthcoming example, let’s presume that it is only fair that necessary extraneous expenses, such as costs for childcare, healthcare, etc. be split in proportion to the income of each party.  When we remove that reality from the actual calculation, we eliminate some measure of confusion and leave only the income of the parents.  Further, for the purposes of easy  math, we’ll use round figures and two gainfully employed parents sharing custody equally (forgetting about necessary deductions for taxes and such).

Parent A makes a net income of $60,000/year

Parent B makes a net income of $40,000/year

In an shared parenting arrangement, equal custody, 50/50 custody, the income-shares model states seek to “equalize the income between the two households.”  Extra expenses are not truly a factor.  Parenting time is equal.  Both have and maintain households and can make ends meet in their respective households.  They put a roof over their children’s heads.  They clothe them.  They feed them.  They are both equally taking care of meeting or exceeding all of the needs of their children.

Despite all of these realities, in income-shares model states, $10,000 in “child support” will be ordered be paid from Parent A to Parent B absent an agreement between the two parties (if even then).  The purpose is to equalize the income and make both households have an income of $50,000 each.

It may not be “fair.”  It may not be necessary.  In the above example, child support will be ordered and it’s clear that it has absolutely nothing with supporting the children.  It’s the law in those states using the income-shares model.  This, of course, is detailed with the realization that there may be exceptions for individual circumstances where a 50/50 custody arrangement is in place and one parent is unable to work or has been laid off and assistance is required.  Those situations are understood.  However, many situations are similar to the one example above.  Both parents are working.  Both parents make a good wage.  Both parents can take care of the children quite well with their respective 50% child custody.  However, if the lower earning parent wants to petition the court for extra money in the form of child support, they can do it and they will get it according to the child support formula in their state.

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  1. is florida a “income sharing state”?

  2. Yes. Florida uses an income-shares model for child support calculations.

  3. Is Virginia an “income sharing state”? What would that mean if parent A makes $140k and parent B makes $100k? Parent A kicks $20k to parent B for child support?

  4. Suzanne,

    Here are the Virginia Child Support Statutes:

    Using my rather simplified example, yes, that’s effectively what happens in a 50/50 child custody situation. Of course, there are other factors that will affect that number minimally, including credits for who is carrying health insurance, tax deductions, who is paying for necessary childcare…

    But the bottom line is, in a 50/50 custodial situation, absent any extenuating circumstances… once all of the other relevant issues are factored appropriately – in shared income model states, the net income will be equalized between the households.

    It’s applied the same way in unbalanced schedules only the formula adjusts for unexplained factors to modify upwards for the payor if the custodial parent has the lion’s share of child custody.

    It’s about equalizing the income between households. It’s not about “meeting the basic needs of the children.”

  5. is Connecticut a sharing state? I just made a 50/50 custodial agreement but I’m in need for some child support, my ex makes so much more than I do. Do I have good chances in getting any type of help?

  6. New Hampshire is a strange hybrid and the guidelines barely take into account obligee’s income and parenting time is irrelevant. Obligor may pay full guidelines support even if they share custody 50/50. An argument can be made to the court, but the guidelines are presumed correct.

  7. I was divorced a year ago and pay $1600.00/month to my ex-wife for child support. She has primary custody. Can I challenge both the custody agreement as well as contest the child support payments? I work three jobs to keep my head above water and satisfy the ordered amount, but I do not spend enough time with my sons as I would like. Any help will be appreciated. Also, can the answer be sent to me via e-mail?

  8. Is Texas an income sharing state?

  9. My spouse makes only about $6000 a year, because she does not want to work more then 2 or 3 days a week (at 5 hrs a day). I make almost $60k. We homeschooled our kids when we were together. She wants to divorce, and keep only working 15 hrs a week and continue to homeschool. We’ve agreed on 50/50. She believes the judge will instruct me to pay $1000+ per month in child support, even though she is leaving and I have to maintain all current bills. Any truth to this?

  10. My husband has 50/50 custody of daughters from previous marriage. The ex is very mean and constantly threatens to make us pay child support if we don’t do her favors and take the kids to appointments on her custody weeks. Can she be awarded support if she makes $200,000 a year to our combined income of $120,000? She doesn’t need our money but loves to threaten us and make us squirm. We live in Illinois

  11. well my girl friend lives in a unsutable house for m baby girl. is there anyway that i can get full cousty of the baby. if my house is clean than her’s house is? i live in fl

  12. What about WA STATE?