If you are a parent going through a divorce, or if you have never been married to your child’s other parent and are ending the relationship, you may need information about child support. In Idaho, both parents, whether married or not, are obligated to support their children.
Idaho follows the “Income Shares Model” which means that courts will estimate the amount parents would spend on their children when both parents and children live together in one household (as if the family were still intact) and then divide this amount between the parents based on their incomes.
Judges ordering child support refer to the current version of the Idaho Child Support Guidelines. The guidelines include a Table of Basic Child Support Rates which shows the total amount of support both parents must pay based on their combined “guideline” incomes (explained in detail below) and the number of children they have together. A percentage of the total support obligation is assigned to each parent based on that parent’s income percentage. For example, if parent A earns $6,000 a month and parent B earns $4,000 a month, parent A would be responsible for 60% of the support amount (6,000 divided by 10,000) and parent B for 40% of the support amount (4,000 divided by 10,000).
Multiple steps are required to obtain an accurate child support figure, and the guidelines are quite complex and challenging to read. You can estimate how much child support a court would be likely to order in your case by downloading and completing an Affidavit Verifying Income (CAO FL 1-11) and either a Standard Custody Child Support Worksheet (CAO FL 1-13) or a Shared or Split Custody Worksheet (CAO FL 1-12) from the Idaho Supreme Court’s Court Assistance Office. If you’re having trouble navigating your way through the calculations and completing the forms, you should contact an attorney for help.
You can also try using this quick child support calculator, but keep in mind that the calculator won’t take into account any adjustments for parenting time or other unusual situations.
If you and your child’s other parent have a parenting arrangement where one of you has primary physical custody and the other has visitation amounting to less than 25% of overnights per year, you should use the Standard Custody Worksheet. Under the standard parenting calculation, the total amount of support is divided between the parents based on their percentage shares of income without any adjustment for parenting time. Only the noncustodial parent will pay support; courts presume that the custodial parent's share is already going toward the direct costs of raising children.
If each of you spends at least 25% of overnights per year with at least one child (shared custody), or if each of you has primary custody of at least one child (split custody), you should use the Shared or Split Custody Worksheet. The Idaho guidelines recognize that in shared and split parenting arrangements, there is an overall increase both in the total costs of raising children and in the expenses of each parent. In addition to considering each parent’s percentage share of income, the shared and split custody calculations take into account both the overall increase in support costs and the percentage of time a child spends with each parent. These are multi-step calculations. The guidelines explain the calculations in detail and the Shared or Split Custody Worksheet will walk you through them step-by-step.
Guideline Income includes “gross income" plus any fringe benefits that significantly reduce personal living expenses—such as housing, meals, or a car—and minus certain adjustments.
Gross income generally includes all types of income, whether earned or unearned. Common examples are wages, commissions, self-employment earnings, disability payments, and investment income. If you’re self-employed, you can deduct necessary costs of doing business from your gross receipts to get your gross income, but be aware that the allowable deductions are very limited and do not include everything allowed by the IRS. The guidelines contain a full definition of gross income and the Affidavit Verifying Income will identify the most common types for you.
In addition to counting actual income, if a court believes that a parent is choosing not to work, or is choosing to work at a lower paying job than the parent is qualified for, it may also include potential income based on that parent’s education, experience, and available job opportunities.
Allowable deductions from gross income include any child support or alimony you pay in another case, as well as any alimony you may be paying the other parent in the current case, and half of any self-employment taxes you paid from your gross income. In addition to deducting child support you pay for any children from other relationships who are not living live with you, if you have any natural or adopted children from another relationship who are living with you, you can deduct an amount for their support. That amount would be the Guideline support amount calculated for the child, using only your income.
In addition to the basic child support obligation, a court may order parents to share the cost of child care that one of them needs to be able to work, after first taking into account any available federal child care tax credit. In some cases a court will also divide a child’s visitation-related transportations costs between the parents. Federal and state income tax benefits, including both dependency exemptions and child tax credit benefits, will also affect the final support amount. Unless the parents agree on how to divide such benefits, the court will apply complex rules detailed in the guidelines to ensure that each parent receives a fair and comparable adjustment from any available tax benefits. Additional adjustments may also apply if one or both parents have either a very low or a very high income.
In Idaho, the obligation to pay child support ordinarily ends when a child who is no longer attending high school turns 18 or a current high school student turns 19. A parent who wants to modify (change) an initial child support award will have to show that circumstances have changed substantially—for example that one parent has gotten a much better paying job or that parenting time has changed considerably. A parent can also request a modification if there has been a change in the child support guidelines that would significantly affect the support amount.
The Child Support Services Office of the Idaho Department of Health and Public Welfare is responsible for helping families obtain child support payment orders, locate absent parents, establish paternity if necessary, and secure compliance with child support court orders. If your child’s other parent has stopped making child support payments, or isn’t making full payments on time, you should contact a lawyer or Child Support Services for assistance in enforcing the child support order.