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Calculating The Basic Child Support Obligation

Calculating the basic child support obligation in Louisiana is done using a table. Louisiana’s Department of Children and Family Services publishes the table online. You can access it here.

At first glance, the table looks fairly straightforward. As discussed below, however, calculating child support in Louisiana is not as simple as it may seem.

The table requires that you know what your and the other parent’s “combined adjusted monthly gross income” is. To do that, you must first figure out what your “monthly gross income” is.

What is Included in Your “Monthly Gross Income”?

“Gross income” is income from any source. It includes, but is not limited to:

  • Salaries and wages
  • Commissions and bonuses
  • Dividends and interest income
  • Pensions
  • Distributions from 401Ks and IRAs.
  • Capital gains
  • Social security benefits
  • Disability benefits
  • Rent or lease payments you receive.
  • Mineral royalties

Gross income may also include the value of free housing, a company car, or reimbursed meal costs.

How is my Child Support Obligation Calculated if I am Self-Employed?

“Gross income” for a parent who is self-employed or owns a closely held corporation generally means “gross receipts” minus ordinary and necessary expenses made to stay in business. For example, if you operate a lawn care company, your monthly gross income would include all the money your customers pay you on a monthly basis. You would then subtract from that figure expenses such as the cost of gas and oil for the equipment, wages, insurance, and the cost to keep your equipment repaired.

The rules are complicated in such cases. Calculating “gross income” for parents receiving income from self-employment or closely held companies often requires the help of an accountant.

Whether you are self-employed or work for someone else, once you have figured your “monthly gross income”, the next step is to “adjust” that income. The adjustments are the same no matter where your money comes from.

What “Adjustments” are Made to “Monthly Gross Income”?

If a court has ordered you to pay spousal or child support in another case, you may be able to deduct that preexisting support obligation from your monthly gross income. Another deduction may be available if you are contributing to the financial support of another child who is not a party to the current case. Once you’ve made those deductions, i.e. “adjusted” your “monthly gross income,” you are ready to make the same calculations for the other parent.

How do I Find Out What the Other Parent’s “Adjusted Monthly Gross Income” is?

Even if you don’t have a lawyer, you probably have a pretty good idea of what the other parent makes and whether he owes money to other ex’s and other children. A rough idea is all you need to do a quick and dirty calculation of the basic child support obligation.

However, if you don’t know anything about the other parent’s income, you can find out during child support proceedings in court. Louisiana law requires both parents to disclose to the court enough information so the parties can do the child support calculation.

I Know our Combined Adjusted Monthly Gross Income. What’s Next?

Go to the table and look for the figure that corresponds to your estimated combined adjusted monthly gross income (CAMGI). For example, assume it is $5,000 ($2,500 for you and $2,500 for the other parent). To the right of $5,000 on the table, you will see columns for the number of children between you. If the CAMGI is $5,000 and you have two children, the basic support obligation for 2017 in Louisiana is $1,263.

Who Pays for Daycare and Health Insurance?

Louisiana law provides that “net child care costs” shall be added to the basic child support obligation. If the monthly cost is $450, that amount is added to the figure you see on the table. For example, using $1,263, the addition of daycare increases the amount of support for the children to $1,713.

Courts also have the power to require a parent to enroll children in a health benefit plan, policy, or program. The cost of health benefits is also added to the basic child support obligation.

Are the Costs of Private School Tuition and Extracurricular Activities Added to the Basic Child Support Obligation?

Courts also have the power to add these types of expenses to the basic child support obligation.

How Much of the Final Child Support Obligation is Mine and how Much is Hers?

In general, that depends upon:

  • How much time do the children spend with you compared to him?
  • What percentage of the CAMGI do you make compared to her?

A parent’s obligation to pay child support depends in part on how much of the CAMGI they make. A parent who makes 70% of the CAMGI could owe 70% of the basic child support obligation. This basic rule changes depending on how physical custody is divided between the parents.

A parent who has “sole” custody of his children, for example, will receive more money from the other parent than a parent who shares custody of her children fifty-fifty. If parents have “joint” custody but one parent has the children most of the time, the parent who has the children most of the time will usually receive more of the basic child support obligation than someone with fifty-fifty custody but less than someone who has sole custody.

You Should get Help Calculating What you Will pay or What you Will Receive in Child Support

This discussion only scratches the surface of a complicated area of family law. Although it doesn’t hurt to try to figure out what you might pay or receive in child support on your own, you should consult with a family lawyer to “check your work”. The decisions you make about child custody affect your child support rights and obligations. Don’t commit to custody or to paying or accepting any amount in child support until you have spoken to a family lawyer.

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