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How do courts decide on child support obligations?

Getting divorced can take an emotional toll. An individual may be ending his or her marriage to someone who he or she has deeply cared about for years, maybe even decades, and the circumstances that gave rise to the dissolution may be heart-wrenching. And yet, emotional harm is not the only issue divorcing couples have to contend with. They also have to find a way to deal with the financial realities of the situation.

One of the most common issues dealt with in a divorce is child support. These monthly payments, made by a noncustodial parent to a custodial parent, are intended to help pay for medical expenses, everyday costs, and educational expenses, amongst others. It is the state's position that it takes two people to create a child, and both of those parents should be financially responsible for the upbringing of that child.

So, how much may a noncustodial parent be ordered to pay in child support? It really depends on the circumstances of the particular case at hand. Child support cannot be addressed in a prenuptial agreement, meaning that the parties themselves cannot determine the payment amount beforehand. Instead, a judge will make a determination that is in the best interests of the child. To help him or her do that, he or she will likely turn to the child support guideline schedule, which can be found online at the Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services website.

As can be seen from the schedule, one's child support obligation is based on a noncustodial parent's income and the number of children to whom support is to be paid. For example, a parent who makes $2,000 a month in gross income and has two children will likely have to pay about $550 a month in support.

Figuring, obtaining, and modifying child support can be complicated. Therefore, those contemplating divorce may be well-served by a legal professional's advice.

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