Child Support Laws by State (all 50 US States)

Because nearly every component of family law is handled at the state level, the processes and regulations for establishing child support payments vary from one state to the next. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with your state’s rules before negotiating with your child’s other legal guardian.

Child support is the amount of money required by law to be paid monthly by a non-custodial parent for their child. Judges in every state have their own child support law and guidelines which they follow.

Every state follows any of the three models for child support computation.

1. Income Shares Model:

By this model, if the parents were not divorced, the Income Shared Model estimates how much money they would spend on a child every month. Following that, each parent’s income is evaluated, and the amount indicated by the Model is divided proportionally between the non-custodial and custodial parent. This formula is the most popular as it’s used in 40 US states.

40 States use the Income Shares Model

Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming, Guam, Virgin Islands.

Roles of Custodial and Non-custodial Parents in Income Shared Model

The non-custodial parent is the obligator, according to the Model, and is responsible for paying child support. This is due to the fact that the custodial parent usually has more than 50% physical custody of the children.

The custodial parent may face increased financial commitments as a result of the increased time spent with the children. To equalize the financial burdens, the non-custodial parent pays child support.

2. Percentage of Income Model:

In the percentage of income model, the support is calculated as a percentage of the income of the non-custodial parent only. There are two variants of this model:

Flat Percentage Model

The flat percentage variation of the percentage of income model calculates child support based on a fixed percentage across all levels of income of the paying parent. The share of income spent on the child remains constant.

Varying Percentage Model

The varying percentage model of the percentage of income model applies different percentages to different levels of income, resulting in the percentage of the payor’s income dedicated to child maintenance fluctuating depending on the income level he or she is earning.

7 States use the Percentage of Income Model

Alaska, Mississippi, Nevada, and Wisconsin (Flat Percentage Model)
Arkansas, North Dakota, and Texas (Varying Percentage Model)

3. Melson Formula:

Melson formula: an upgraded version of the income shares standard, which includes a standard living adjustment whenever parents get an income increase. It was developed by a judge in Delaware Family Court and was fully explained in Dalton v. Clanton, 559 A.2d 1197 (Del. 1989).

The Melson formula is based on three principles:

  1. That parents have the right to keep enough money to cover their basic requirements in order to encourage them to work till the child’s basic needs are met.
  2. That parents must not be allowed to keep any more money than is necessary to pay for their children’s basic needs.
  3. When the kid’s basic requirements and those of the dependant are met, the child is entitled to a share of any extra income and to benefit from the higher standard of living of the noncustodial parent.

3 States use the Melson Formula

Delaware, Hawaii, and Montana

State Child Support Facts

  1. State family law also covers child support guidelines that you need to be acquainted with if you’re considering divorce. There may be states with no child support laws or do not enforce them strictly, so it pays to do your research to ensure that your child gets all the financial support he or she needs after you divorce your spouse.
  2. Most states will continue child support until eighteen to nineteen years of age. The amount of child support can vary as much as $700 when comparing two states.
  3. Child support rates do not necessarily correlate with the standard of living in a state. Texas, North Dakota, Mississippi, and Arkansas are the only four states that don’t impute the mother’s income into their child support computation.
  4. The idea that women are entering the workforce isn’t factored into these four states’ calculations. Deadbeat parents in California amount to 76% of child support with reasons ranging from denial of paternity, preference to give up a child, lack of accountability, lack of visitation, and inability to pay.
  5. Certain characteristics are shared by all of the guideline models. To begin with, most rules include a “self-support” reserve for the obligor. Secondly, imputed income is addressed in all of the guidelines. Thirdly, by federal rule, all standards take into account the costs of children’s health care, whether through insurance or other means.
  6. Finally, most standards have included additional adjustments for child care expenses, special formulae for shared custody, joint custody, and unusual visitation, and special reductions for the help of previous and future babies in the presumptive child support formula.

What States DO NOT Enforce Child Support?

Kentucky – The express rebuttable presumption for joint legal custody and equal custody under temporary or permanent court orders was first established in Kentucky. This implies that equally shared decision-making is presumed unless there is sufficient evidence to support a different structure.

Arizona – As per a report, Arizona received praise for its “maximizing time provision,” which pertains to the state’s desire for “maximizing each parent’s time with their children.”

District of Columbia – D.C. made this decision in part because it is required by law to make the “rebuttable assumption that joint custody is appropriate for the child(ren)” unless there is abuse or neglect.

Nevada and Iowa – Joint legal custody is presumed to be an option in Iowa. Nevada also promotes “parents to share in the rights and obligations for child upbringing” in its policy.

Which States are Toughest on Child Support?

Massachusetts $1,187
Nevada $1,146
New Hampshire $1,035
Rhode Island $1,014
Hawaii $1,014
Source: Custody X Change (2019)

Child Support Laws by State (Conclusion)

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, states make laws for child support based on one of three different formulas stated above to calculate the baseline child support amount due. As is clearly established, the issue of child support laws by state jurisdiction must be followed in order not to flout the laws and get yourself into trouble.

State-by-State Child Support Laws and Guidelines

A - Alabama  |  AlaskaArizonaArkansas
C - CaliforniaColoradoConnecticut
D-H - DelawareFloridaGeorgiaHawaii
I - IdahoIllinoisIndianaIowa
K-L - KansasKentuckyLouisiana
M - MaineMarylandMassachusetts |  Michigan |  Minnesota |  Mississippi |  Missouri |  Montana
N - Nebraska |  Nevada |  New Hampshire |  New Jersey |  New Mexico |  New YorkNorth Carolina |  North Dakota
O - Ohio |  Oklahoma |  Oregon
P-S - Pennsylvania |  Rhode Island |  South Carolina |  South Dakota
T-U - Tennessee |  Texas |  Utah
V-W - Vermont |  VirginiaWashington DC | Washington StateWest VirginiaWisconsinWyoming


Deborah Kelly

Deborah Kelly

As a proud single mom who has seen it all, I encourage others by sharing my experiences & curating content on divorce, adoption, child & spousal support. My passion also includes spending quality time with my kids and giving back to my community.