Child Support Guidelines For Calculation And Enforcement

Authored By: Lagniappe Law Lab
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About Child Support Guidelines For Calculation And Enforcement

In Louisiana, courts use a fixed formula to calculate child support. The formula is part of the Louisiana Child Support Guidelines. The formula uses the total amount of both parents' monthly incomes and the number of children they have to determine basic child support. In addition to basic child support, the formula allows for add-on expenses. Together, basic child support and add-on expenses equal total child support, which is the amount the paying parent owes each month.

How Do The Guidelines Work?

Child support gets calculated by using Louisiana law about child support guidelines. The guidelines use a shared income model that uses the actual income of both parents. The court figures out the monthly cost of raising the children from the shared income model. The non-custodial parent pays a percentage of the calculated cost. You can find the child support schedule in Louisiana here and on Obligation Worksheet A.

Wages and salaries from all employment count as income. Money earned from freelance or other jobs counts, too. Interest earned from investments gets counted as income. Regular cash gifts can also get counted as income for child support.

Some things that do not count as income include child support received for a child of a prior marriage. Cash gifts that may go to a parent when the other parent is not paying child support do not count as income.

The Guidelines also determine the percentage of certain "add-on" expenses of the children owed by each parent. The Court can include expenses for child care costs, health insurance premiums, extraordinary medical expenses, and other extraordinary expenses, like music lessons and sports fees.

In some cases, the Court may order each parent to pay their percentage of these expenses directly to a third party. In other cases, one parent may pay the full amount and seek reimbursement from the other parent for their percentage of the total amount paid.

Child Care Costs
The Court is required to add net child care costs to the basic child support amount. The net child care cost equals the total or actual child care costs minus any federal tax credit for child care expenses. The Court needs documentation of child care costs to include in the formula. In addition to net child care costs, the Court has the discretion to add child care costs related to a parent's job training or education necessary for employment or to increase the parent's earning potential.
Health Insurance

The Court may order one of the parties to enroll the child in a health insurance plan or to keep the child's coverage on an existing plan. A parent whose employer-sponsored health insurance covers a child will get credited. The parent must show how much of the total monthly premium is used to pay for the child's coverage. If the other parent has children who are covered by their insurance, but are from a different relationship, the total monthly premium is divided by the total number of children covered by the insurance plan. The parent is only entitled to a credit in the amount of coverage that is used for the children who are part of the child support order.

Extraordinary Medical Expenses

Basic child support covers the first $250 per child, per calendar year, in out-of-pocket medical expenses. Extraordinary medical expenses are out-of-pocket expenses, not covered by insurance, that occur after the first $250 spent per child per calendar year.

For example, assume that in less than one year, one child has 5 doctor's appointments and each one costs $50 out-of-pocket. Any expenses incurred after the first $250 count as "extraordinary medical expenses."

Extraordinary medical expenses incurred on behalf of the children can be added to basic child support. The parents can agree to add these expenses or the Court can order them to be added if the parents do not agree.

Other Extraordinary Expenses

If the parties agree, or if the Court orders it, other extraordinary expenses may be added to the basic child support amount. These include:

  • expenses for tuition, registration, books, and supply fees required for a child to attend a special or private elementary or secondary school to meet the needs of the child.

  • expenses for transportation of the child from one parent to the other.

  • special expenses incurred for activities intended to boost the health, athletic, social, or cultural development of a child. These activities include, but are not limited to, camp, music or art lessons, travel, and school-sponsored extracurricular activities.

Unless the parents agree, for the Court to include tuition expenses, the parent who wants to have those expenses added to the basic award will have to prove that the private or special school meets the needs of the child.

Child support guidelines use two different worksheets with a formula to calculate it. The Court uses Worksheet A when the parents have joint custody of the child. In this situation, one parent is the domiciliary parent. The Court uses Worksheet B when the parents share equal physical custody of the child. The difference between the two formulas is the total child support amount. Each parent owes a different amount in each formula because of how the parents share custody. Each parent has responsibility for the child's expenses.

When a noncustodial parent does not pay child support that money may add up as child support arrears. Child support arrears are the amount of child support that is delinquent or unpaid. The state may collect child support arrears from the noncustodial parent. The state may by garnish wages, withhold benefits, withhold tax refunds, or use other collection methods.

How To Calculate Child Support Payments

How To Calculate Child Support Payments

The amount of child support in Louisiana that one pays or receives depends primarily on the number of children, the custody agreement, and both of the parent’s income. The court will look at the combined monthly income of the parents and if it’s $40,000.00 or less the court will consult a statutory table that will determine the amount of basic child support that the non-domiciliary parent will pay to the domiciliary parent (the domiciliary parent is the parent that the child primarily lives with.)

Steps To Calculate Child Support Payments

This is the gross income of both parties, which means you need to input both your income before taxes and adjustments. If you already have pre-existing child support and/or spousal support payments that you make from a previous case, you can already deduct it from your gross income.

(Monthly Gross Income for Parent A – Pre-Existing Child Support – Pre-Existing Spousal Support Payments)
+
(Monthly Gross Income for Parent B – Pre-Existing Child Support – Pre-Existing Spousal Support Payments)
=
Combined Adjusted Monthly Gross Income

After getting your combined monthly gross income, you will then use that figure to get the percentage of income for you and your spouse. You need to do this twice to get your percentage and your spouse’s percentage.

(Monthly Gross Income for Parent B – Pre-Existing Child Support – Pre-Existing Spousal Support Payments)
/
Combined Adjusted Monthly Gross Income

This is a worksheet that indicates the schedule of support to be used for determining the basic child support obligation amount according to the state of Louisiana.

Once you get the basic child support obligation amount, you can add in the additional adjustments defined below and subtract the child’s income, if applicable:

  1. Child Care Costs
  2. Child’s Health Insurance Premium Cost
  3. Extraordinary Medical Expenses
  4. Extraordinary Expenses
    Minus Extraordinary
  5. Adjustments such as child’s income, if applicable.

This is done by adding all items from the previous step to the basic child support obligation number you found in the table above.

Basic Obligation + A + B + C + D - E
=
Total Obligation

Remember the percentage share of income you got from Step 2? Use those percentages to calculate the actual obligation both parents need to pay for.

Total Obligation x Parent A%
&
Total Obligation x Parent B%

The court will consider additional direct payments made by the noncustodial parent on behalf of the child for childcare costs, health insurance premiums, extraordinary medical expenses, or extraordinary expenses. For the custodial parent, you get the total of all that and subtract it from the amount you arrived at in Step 6.

Last Review and Update: Jan 30, 2024
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