In New Hampshire, both parents have a duty to support their child. Typically, however, only the non-custodial parent (sometimes called the obligor for child support purposes) actually pays support. The custodial parent (orobligee) remains responsible for child support too, but the law assumes that this parent spends the required amount directly on the child.
Child support payments are based primarily on the parents’ income and the number of children they need to support. Parents must also share child care and medical expenses, and may have to cover other costs, like those for education. You can estimate your fair share of support by using the Child Support Guidelines, but a court can adjust the amount of support up or down if the guidelines provide a number that would be unfair to a parent or the child.
To calculate child support payments, you need to start with each parent’s gross income. Gross income is all income from all sources. This includes your salary, wages, bonuses and commissions from your job, but also any pension or severance pay. It is also money that comes from any royalties, dividends, a trust, or rental profits - among other things. Lottery winnings and even spousal support received count too.
If you are unemployed, chances are you still have income for child support purposes in the form of social security, workers’ compensation, unemployment or disability benefits. Likewise, a court could impute 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 parent has a disability that prevents employment, then he or she will not be held responsible for additional income.
There are a few benefits that you can leave out of gross income like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), food stamps, and other government assistance benefits.
Once you have each parent’s gross income, you can make deductions for pre-existing child support paid, 50% of actual self-employment taxes paid, any mandatory retirement payments, taxes paid, and child care and medical support costs. The result is the parents’ adjusted incomes. Add them together (to get the combined income) and then check the Child Support Guidelines Table for the total child support payment based on the number of children to support.
Parents then split the total amount of support between them, according to their individual incomes. This means that the parent who earns more will end up with a larger share of the child support obligation. This isn’t meant to punish the higher-earning parent. Instead, it protects the child’s standard of living.
Where a parent or child faces special circumstances that would make following the guidelines unfair, a court can adjust the amount of support. Before a child support order is issued, either parent can ask the court to deviate from the guidelines. Then, keeping the child’s best interest in mind, a judge will review the following factors to adjust the amount of child support either up or down:
Once a child support order is in place, a parent can still ask the court to modify (change) it at any time. If it has been less than three years since a court issued or modified the order, then you must show a substantial change in circumstances – like the loss of a job. Also, you can request a modification at any time if you current order does not include the child’s medical support.
You do not need to show a substantial change in circumstances if the order has been in place for three years or more. You can read more about this in New Hampshire’s Modification Kit.
In addition to the links above, you can read more on establishing, modifying, and enforcing child support orders on the New Hampshire Division of Child Support Services webpage. If you would like to read the law on child support, see the New Hampshire Revised Statutes Chapter 458-C.