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What are the states with the highest percentage of child support?

The amount that one parent is required to give to another through child support varies widely in the US by a factor of three between the lowest and highest.

The amount that one parent is required to give to another through child support varies widely in the US by a factor of three between the lowest and highest.

The federal government requires that states set guidelines for how child support amounts are determined. However, they generally have a free hand setting their own rules, meaning significant differences from one state to the next.

According to a Custody X Change study of state formulas to calculate typical monthly child support payment, the lowest was almost $800 less than the highest. Determining the amount also don’t generally reflect the cost of living for a particular state.

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What are the typical child support payments by state in the US?

Researchers at Custody X Change in 2019 developed a scenario to calculate the average child support payment required by each state based on a hypothetical family. Using parental income data from Pew Research Center they looked at a family with a mother, father, and two minor children, aged 7 and 10 years old.

According to United States Census Bureau child custody statistics from 2018, about 4 in every 5 of the 12.9 million custodial parents in the United States were mothers. The study calculated that the custodial mother retained 65 percent of parenting time. Prior research determined that as the average timeshare awarded to mothers across the country, and one of the main determining factors for judges when awarding child support. Annual income for the mother was set at $45,000 and $55,000 for the father, then the researchers used each state’s formula to calculate the average payment a non-custodial father would make based on these amounts.

The end result showed a gaping difference in typical monthly payments among states even though the financial circumstances of the parents are similar. In Massachusetts the average monthly payment, which are the highest nationally, was $1,187 per month. On the other hand, just six hours away in Virginia, which has the lowest average monthly payment, the father could be expected to pay $402, nearly two thirds less.

They calculated that the average typical child support payment nationwide was $721 per month. The research found that child support rates between states are not directly correlated with the cost of living in those states. Only Hawaii, of the five most expensive states to live in, ranked within the 10 highest child support calculations.

Two of the other four states, Maryland and New Jersey, ranked in the bottom ten states with the lowest payments. While the remaining two, California and New York were respectively below and above the national average with average monthly payments calculated at $566 and $895.

Why do child support payments vary so much?

After studies showed major inconsistencies in how child support was being awarded by judges from state to state and even within the same state, the federal government required states to establish child support guidelines. By law, states must convene a panel every four years to review the guidelines that will be applied in their state. However, each state uses different approaches to how those guidelines are determined.

As American families have changed over the years, most states have significantly overhauled how the determine child support amounts. But some states still don’t take into consideration such things as the greater participation of women in the workforce. For example, in Mississippi, North Dakota, and Texas only the father’s income is used when calculating child support amounts. This results in child support payments around $100 higher compared to the other states.


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