How Does Child Support Work with Joint Custody?

Jodee Redmond
man, woman and young child

When determining child custody arrangements, you may wonder, "How does child support work with joint custody?" The issue can be a complicated one. Each situation is as unique as the family involved.

Physical v. Legal Custody

When a court awards physical custody of a child to a parent, he or she has the right to make day-to-day decisions relating to the child. Legal custody gives the parent the right and the responsibility to make decisions about the child's education or health matters. A parent may be granted one form of custody but not the other.

Joint Custody Basics

A joint custody arrangement works best when parents can work together effectively. When both parents are interested in participating actively in the process of raising children, this type of arrangement can work very well. The manner in which you implement your custody agreement may influence how a judge determines child support.

The parents will need to agree on where the child will live. There are different ways to handle this, and a choice that is right for one family may not work for another. In some cases, the children spend part of their time at each parent's home, while in other situations the children remain in one home and the parents take turns spending time there.

A joint custody arrangement doesn't necessarily mean that the children spend an equal amount of time with each parent. There is no universal definition for joint custody, as each state sets its own unique guidelines. In some jurisdictions, joint custody can mean the children spend as little as 30 percent of their time with one parent and 70 percent with the other. In other parts of the United States, parents who are interested in a joint custody arrangement will be looking at a more equitable split for time spent with the children. The total amount of time spent in each home will likely have some bearing on child support allocation.

How Does Child Support Work with Joint Custody

The guidelines for child support payable in a joint custody arrangement take the amount of time the child spends with each parent into account. If a judge is making a decision about child support, he or she may consider the income of each parent when determining the amount that should be paid. The state child support guidelines also provide directions about which parent can claim the child as a dependent on his or her income tax return.

In a situation where the child spends an equal amount of time with each parent, neither one may be ordered to pay child support to the other. Some judges interpret child support in joint custody cases differently. They look at the child support guidelines that would apply in the situation and divide them in half to reflect the fact that the child spends half of his or her time with each parent.

Some parents may think that child support doesn't need to be paid for the time the child is with the parent who is making the support payments. This is not the case, and in some states, parents are specifically prohibited from stopping child support payments during this time. The court considers that certain expenses involved in raising children, such as paying for health insurance, housing, and school activities, are due whether the child is present in the home or not.

The answer to the question, "How does child support work with joint custody?" is one that depends on where the couple lives. In many states, a judge has specific guidelines that he or she needs to follow when making a ruling about child support. In situations where the parents are involved in a joint custody arrangement, the time the child spends with each parent factors in as well.

How Does Child Support Work with Joint Custody?