Child support is a monthly payment that a parent makes to help cover the costs of raising a child. In Kentucky, both parents have a financial responsibility to support their child (or children), but typically, only the non-custodial parent makes payments. This is because the law assumes the custodial parent—the parent who lives with the child most of the time—spends the required amount of child support directly on the child.
The amount of child support ordered in your case will depend on each parent’s income and the number of children requiring support. Kentucky has enacted child support guidelines, or rules, for calculating support. You can estimate your fair share of support by accessing Kentucky’s child support calculator. In addition to the amount determined by the guidelines, parents must also share the child’s health and childcare costs and may need to cover other expenses, like those required for the child’s education.
In Kentucky, child support payments will continue until the child turns 18, or until 19 if the child is still in high school. Parents divide these payments between themselves proportionally, based on their individual incomes. While parents may agree to pay an amount different from the guidelines, or wish to split it another way, they need a court’s approval to do so. Likewise, a court can either decrease or increase the amount of child support if the guideline amount is unfair to the parent or does not meet the child's financial needs.
To help you calculate support payments, the state provides worksheets and an online child support estimator. To begin, you need to know both parents’ gross incomes. “Gross income” includes all income from all sources. This includes a parent’s salary, wages, bonuses and commissions from a job, but also any military pension or severance pay. It is also money that comes from any royalties, dividends, or a trust, among other things. See Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 403.212 (2020).
Even an unemployed parent likely has income for child support purposes in the form of social security, workers’ compensation, unemployment or disability benefits. Gifts, prizes, and spousal support or alimony received count too. There are a few benefits to exclude, however, like means-tested public assistance, including food stamps.
A court could also assign potential income to a deadbeat parent—someone who is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed—unless that parent has a good reason for working less or not at all. For example, if a disability prevents a parent from working, then a court will not hold this parent responsible for additional income. Also, a court will not impute income to a parent who cares for a young child.
In addition to gross income amounts, you will also need to know if either parent pays spousal support to a previous spouse, pays child support under any preexisting child support order, or makes payments in support of additional children who may not be covered by a prior support order.
These items make up the deductions that result in the parents’ adjusted gross income, which, when added together, will be the basis for a standard amount of child support per child. You can use Child Support Worksheets 71 or 71.1, available on Kentucky’s child support website, for calculating support.
Sometimes, guideline child support is unfair to a parent or the child. Before the court issues a child support order, either parent can ask the court to adjust the amount. Then, a judge will review the following factors to decide whether support payments should go up or should be decreased from the guideline amount:
Once you have a child support order in place, you’ll need to collect payments each month. In our digital age, it’s easier than ever to pay and receive child support. An obligor parent (the parent responsible for paying child support) can make payments via cash, check, bank transfer, direct deposit, or by using a payment app, such as Venmo or Zelle.
Many obligor parents make child support payments on-time and without reminders but some, known as deadbeat parents, go to great lengths to avoid paying child support. If you’re struggling to collect support payments from your ex, contact Kentucky's Child Support Enforcement Department at 1-800-248-1163.
Once a child support order is in place, either parent may ask for a review of the amount. A state agency, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, can change the amount due if either parent has experienced a material change in circumstances that results in a 15% increase or decrease in the amount of support due per month.
A material change in circumstances may occur when a parent relocates, loses a job, remarries, or has another child. A parent may also ask to modify a support order to add health insurance or other medical support. See Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 403.213 (2020).
In addition to the links above, Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services offers many tools to explain the child support process. For more information on issues surrounding child support, you can visit our section on Child Support and Kentucky Divorce and Family Law.