How Does the Court Determine Child Custody in a Divorce

The federal government is the entity that establishes guidelines to how child support is mandated, how much is awarded and to what consistency. Each state has it is own child custody laws. There are different aspects of a divorce that the court looks at when considering how child support is calculated. Income, deductions and expenses are three of the main areas of consideration. Let’s take a look.


During a divorce, the income of both parents is examined. If the divorce is contested and parties are unable to agree, the court will determine the extent to which each party will contribute. If the father refuses to accept the court’s decision, the mother may file a petition with the court and the father’s wages may be garnished at that time to facilitate child support. Some states will often base their determination on the gross income while others will base it on the net income.


If one or both parent already has a responsibility to pay for alimony or child support from a previous divorce, the court will allow them to deduct that from the income before a determination is made for a reasonable amount to be paid in the current child support decision. Payment can be voluntary by either party without the court’s involvement. However, once the court is involved, the court has to establish the correct and reasonable amount.

Paying For Childcare

When making a determination on the correct amount to be paid for child support, the court will take several things into consideration. Childcare is one of them. The court will look at how much is paid for childcare expenses. In some states, this amount will be allowed so the individual can look for work or go to work. Childcare expenses may be adjusted by the court if the person lives in a state that provides an exemption for dependent care on their state income tax.

Pay for Healthcare

During the child support hearing, both parties involved have to detail which person will pay for the health insurance of the child or children. This amount is added to the fundamental order for child support. The amount is credited to the party that actually pays for the health insurance. Many states have a similar guideline of a specific amount added to the child support payment to cover for health insurance. The court will also consider other extraordinary and unexpected medical expenses.

Other expenses

The court may increase the basic child support order to facilitate children with learning disabilities, handicap or other special needs. The court will also consider expenses incurred for child visitation and any other travel that involves the parent or the child. The amount is generally divided between each parent according to their individual incomes. The parent who does not have custody of the child will receive the credit for any incurred expense that the other parent should have paid. The non-custodial parent may have more incurred expenses, the longer the child spends with that parent.

In the case where the court decides the child support amount, it is of the assumption that this is the right amount. However, a divorce attorney can help to challenge the court, in the event that it is felt by one party or the other that the amount is not reasonable.