If you’re a parent going through a divorce, or you’re ending a relationship with your child’s other parent, you’ll need to establish child support. In Idaho, both parents are obligated to financially support their children.
Idaho, like some other states, follows the “Income Shares Model” for child support. Under the “Income Shares Model,” a judge estimates the amount parents would spend on their children if the family was still intact. This amount is divided between each parent according to their income to create a child support award. Idaho’s Child Support 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 $7,000 a month and parent B earns $3,000 a month, parent A would be responsible for 70% of the support amount (7,000 divided by 10,000) and parent B for 30% of the support amount (3,000 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.
In addition to income, your custody and visitation arrangement will impact a child support award. Specifically, if one parent has primary physical custody and the other parent spends less than 25% of overnights per year with the child, you will calculate support based on 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 the child.
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. If you have additional questions, you should contact a local family law attorney for help.
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. A parent’s gross income generally includes wages, commissions, self-employment earnings, disability payments, royalties, military pay, and investment income.
If you’re self-employed, you can deduct necessary costs of doing business from your gross receipts to calculate your gross income, but be aware that the allowable deductions are very limited and do not include everything allowed by the IRS. Idaho’s child support guidelines contain a full definition of gross income and the Affidavit Verifying Income will identify the most common types for you.
Allowable deductions from gross income include any child support or alimony you pay in another case, as well as any alimony paid in your current case. A parent can also deduct the costs of supporting any natural or adopted children from another relationship but who live in the parent’s household.
If a judge believes that a parent is choosing not to work or work for less pay, the judge can impute (assign) income to that parent. A judge can calculate what a parent should be earning based on that parent’s education, experience, and available job opportunities. Ultimately, an increase in a parent’s income will result in an increased child support obligation.
In addition to guideline child support, a judge may order one or both parents to pay the costs of childcare. Sometimes, a court will also divide a child’s visitation-related transportation costs between the parents.
Federal and state income tax benefits, including both dependency exemptions and child tax credit benefits, can impact 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 child support adjustments may also apply if one or both parents have either a very low or a very high income. See Idaho Code § 32-1003 (2020).
In Idaho, the obligation to pay child support ordinarily ends when a child turns 18 and is no longer attending high school, or when 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. A substantial change in circumstances may be a parent’s new job, a serious medical issue, a major change in parenting time, or one parent’s international relocation.
Establishing a child support order is only half the battle—you’ll also need to collect support. It’s easier than ever for a parent to pay monthly child support. Specifically, child support can be paid in cash, by check, bank transfer, direct deposit, or by using payment apps such as Zelle or Venmo.
If you’re dealing with a deadbeat parent who refuses to pay support, you can contact the Idaho Department of Health and Public Welfare for help. The department 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 can contact the Child Support Services department at 1-800-356-9868 for assistance.