When parents go through legal separation or divorce, families are forced to find new ways to function. This includes allocating parenting time, as well as determining who has to pay for what. In some cases, parents can come up with agreements on their own, but there are also instances in which the court must decide.

It’s important to understand that family court judges don’t make such determinations willy-nilly. Because there are so many factors to consider, each state has created guidelines to help the courts act in a way that is structured, fair, and able to address the
best interests of children. What are child support guidelines and how do they apply to families in South Carolina?

What Are Child Support Guidelines?

Whether parents live together or apart, they’re responsible for seeing to the financial needs of their children – supplying essential food, shelter, clothing, child care, medical care, and so on. Once child custody or visitation has been decided, the next step is to determine child support payments. There are a few ways to go about it.

Child support guidelines were conceived as a way for courts to make determinations regarding fair sharing of costs for raising children, even when parents are no longer married or living together.

Each state has its own guidelines, but they tend to follow one of three models:

  • Income Shares Model
  • Melson Formula
  • Percentage of Income Model

The first is based on parents providing the same portion of income to children as they would if they were still living in a single household. The second is a more complicated version that accounts for meeting the basic needs of each parent, in addition to children. The third model requires only the noncustodial parent to provide a percentage of income in child support payments and uses either a flat or varying percentage.

What Applies in South Carolina?

South Carolina has adopted a Shares Model approach to determining child support. This is the most popular model in use throughout the U.S. – only six states use the Percentage Model, while just three use the Melson Formula.

How does the Shares Model work?

First, the income of both parents is combined and a child support obligation is determined. This determination could take into account a number of factors, including custody arrangements, the number of children receiving support, the total number of children in each parent’s household (including other children), alimony payments, and so on.

Once the obligation is set, the model factors in extra expenses, such as child care or medical expenses. The final number is then prorated to reflect the percentage of combined income contributed by each parent. While parents are always encouraged to negotiate their own child custody and support agreements, child support obligations that don’t fall within the scope of guidelines may not be accepted by the court.

Tools and Resources Available to Families and Parents

If you’re curious about what your child support obligation should be, you can get an estimate using the South Carolina DSS Calculator. However, when it comes to the complexities of determining child support, it’s always best to have a qualified family law attorney by your side to guide you through the process and protect your rights.

Bleecker Family Law is a diverse law firm committed to providing legal support and services to clients dealing with complex family issues. Contact us today to request a consultation and learn more about what we can do for you.