Calculating Your Child Support
- Get the Court Forms
- Fill out the Child Support Affidavit
- Fill out the Child Support Worksheet
- What if my income is very low and I can't afford to pay?
- What if I think the Child Support Guidelines don't work for my case?
- If you have more questions...
- Criteria For Deviating From Support Guidelines
Although it may seem confusing at first, calculating a proposed child support amount is not all that difficult in most cases. You must use the Court's Child Support Table (titled the "Maine Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations") to figure out the amount of child support a parent must pay. The amount calculated under the Table is presumed to be the right amount. If you want a larger or smaller amount, you need to explain to the judge why the Table shouldn't be used.
This information tells you how to use the Child Support Guidelines and how to fill out the Child Support Worksheet and the Child Support Affidavit.
If you are preparing for a DHHS support hearing, rather than a Court case, go to: Child Support and Debt Due for Past Support: How Much Do I Owe?
Step 1. Get the Court Forms
The first thing you must do is get the forms you will need. You can get these forms from any court clerk's office. You can also get the forms from our all forms page. You can find self-calculating .pdf versions of the Child Support Worksheet and Child Support Affidavit there. We also offer this "HotDocs" automated Child Support Worksheet. You may find that using these automated forms is easier than going through all of the steps outlined below.
The .pdf sample forms linked below are not the actual forms. They are only samples. To be sure you are doing this right, use the forms and Guidelines you got from the court clerk or our court forms pages.
If you are bringing a Divorce or Parental Rights complaint--or a Motion to Amend or Enforce a family law order--there are additional forms you will need to complete, serve, and file. Go to the court clerk's office to get a forms packet, or read our online handbook Divorce and Parental Rights in Maine or Family Law in Maine: Post-Judgment Motions and use our online forms as instructed there.
Step 2. Fill out the Child Support Affidavit
First you need to fill out the Child Support Affidavit. Both you and the other parent need to fill out your own form. If the other party refuses, you can fill out one for him (or her), using your best estimate of his/her income.
The purpose of the Affidavit is to give the Court a reliable statement of your income and expenses. It is not difficult to fill out. You just need to collect all the information asked for on the form. If you have earnings, attach the most recent W-2 form and pay stub. Once you have completed the Affidavit, sign it in front of a notary, an attorney, or the court clerk.
Give a copy of your Affidavit to the other parent, and get of copy of his/hers for yourself. The original Affidavit goes to the court. Affidavits should be exchanged and filed with the court at least 3 days before the first case management conference.
Go here to see sample completed forms:
Child Support Affidavit for Primary Care Provider
Child Support Affidavit for Non-Primary Care Provider
Note: You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view these documents. If you need help downloading this free software go here.
The sample form has been filled out for this pretend family:
There are three children who live with their mother during the week. Two are under 12 and one is 15. The mother's total gross income for this year is $10,000. She pays $100 per week in childcare for the children under 12. One child has diabetes, which costs $50 per week in medication and is not covered by insurance. The mother pays $10 a week in health insurance premiums for herself.
The father's total gross income for this year is $20,000. He pays $3,000 a year in child support for children from an earlier relationship. The father also pays weekly health insurance premiums of $30, of which $20 is for the children. All of this information is included in the sample Affidavits.
Step 3. Fill out the Child Support Worksheet
Only one Worksheet needs to be completed and filed with the court. Or the Court Magistrate will fill one out for you, using the informatioin from your Affidavits. Go here to see a sample Child Support Worksheet completed for the pretend family. Go here to see a highlighted section of the Child Support Table. Relevant amounts are highlighted in orange.
The sample Worksheet is similar to the one you will get from the clerk's office or online forms page. The printed form is two-sided, with the Calculating "Amount from Table" instructions on the back.
Again, if you have relatively up-to-date software, you can opt to use our self-calculating forms:
Using the sample Worksheet, the pretend family's combined adjusted gross income is $27,000. The mother's share is 37%. The father's share is 63%. The Child Support Guidelines show a weekly support amount of $56 for each of the two children under 12 and $69 for the 15 year old. Then the Worksheet adds in the weekly child care, medical expenses, and health insurance costs to find a total weekly support amount of $351.
This support amount is then divided between the parents based on the percentage of income that they have contributed to their combined adjusted gross income. The father must pay a weekly amount of $201.13 ($351 x .63 minus the $20 he pays per week for health insurance premiums for the children). It is assumed that the mother provides her share ($129.87) because she cares for the children most of the time. She also pays the child care expenses and extraordinary medical expenses directly, with the father reimbursing her for 63% of those expenses.
What if my income is very low and I can't afford to pay?
If your children live most of the time with the other parent and your income is very low, look at the Table to see if your income falls within the shaded area at the low end of the chart. If your income is in this lowest range, then find your support amount on the Table using only your annual gross income (not both parents' combined income).
Your annual gross income is $12,600. You have two children, age 5 and age 13. You are not the "primary care provider." Your basic support obligation would be $30 per week ($14 for the younger child and $16 for the older child). You will still add to this amount your portion of child care and medical expenses (see example above). The numbers highlighted in yellow on this table show the basic support amount.
NOTE: "Shaded area" calculations can be tricky. In some cases, depending on the other parent's income, using the standard "proportional share" formula (explained above) will yield a lower amount of child support. In those cases, the lower amount is used.
Very low income cases: If your annual gross income is below $11,490 (the lowest figure on the chart), then your support obligation is capped at 10% of your income. Sometimes courts increase this, based on what they think your potential earnings could be.
What if I think the Child Support Guidelines don't work for my case?
The Criteria For Deviating From Support Guidelines lists factors that the Court can consider to order a different amount. If you want the Court to order a different amount of child support than the amount on your worksheet, tell the Judge or Magistrate how much you think the support amount should be. You must be ready to explain why your situation fits one of the reasons listed in the linked Criteria.
Where both parents provide "substantially equal care," the child support calculation will be different. The calculation is more complicated. If you can't afford a lawyer, you will probably need help from the Magistrate, the Courthouse Assistance Project or the VLP HelpLine to calculate the basic weekly child support amount. If either party needs to rely on TANF for basic income, you should avoid a "substantially equal care" arrangement. If this is ordered, you will most likely lose your TANF benefits.
If you have more questions...
Call the Maine Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) at 1-800-442-4293 to make an appointment for a Helpline volunteer to call you on a Wednesday evening. Also, Courthouse Assistance Projects are now operating in several courts; trained volunteers go to some courts on a weekly or monthly basis to answer questions or help you fill out the forms.
If you still have questions about the child support calculations when you go to your first court conference, ask the Magistrate for help.
Criteria For Deviating From Support Guidelines
These are reasons that the Court may use to order a child support amount that differs from the child support guidelines.
A. The application of Section 2006, Sub-section 5, Paragraph D or D-1 [the "substantially equal care" provisions] would be unjust, inequitable or not in the child's best interest;
B. The number of children for whom support is being determined is greater than 6;
C. The interrelation of the total support obligation established under the support guidelines for child support, the division of property and any award of spousal support made in the same proceeding for which a parental support obligation is being determined;
D. The financial resources of each child;
E. The financial resources and needs of a party, including non-recurring income not included in the definition of gross income;
F. The standard of living each child would have enjoyed had the marital relationship continued;
G. The physical and emotional conditions of each child;
H. The educational needs of each child;
I. Inflation with relation to the cost of living;
J. Available income and financial contributions of the domestic associate or current spouse of each party;
K. The existence of other persons who are actually financially dependent on either party, including, but not limited to, elderly, disabled or infirm relatives, or adult children pursuing post-secondary education. If the primary care provider is legally responsible for another minor child who resides in the household and if the computation of a theoretical support obligation on behalf of the primary care provider would result in a significantly greater parental support obligation on the part of the non-primary care provider, that factor may be considered;
L. The tax consequences if the obligor is awarded any tax benefits. In determining the allocation of tax exemptions for children, the court may consider which party will have the greatest benefit from receiving the allocation;
M. [Deleted as of September 21, 2001]
N. The fact that income at a reasonable rate of return may be imputed to non-income producing assets with an aggregate fair market value of $10,000 or more, other than an ordinary residence or other asset from which each child derives a substantial benefit;
O. The existence of special circumstances regarding a child 12 years of age or older, for the child's best interest, requires that the primary residential care provider continue to provide for employment-related day care;
P. An obligor party's substantial financial obligation regarding the costs of transportation of each child for purposes of parent and child contact. To be considered substantial, the transportation costs must exceed 15% of the yearly support obligation;
Q. A finding by the court or hearing officer that the application of the support guidelines would be unjust, inappropriate or not in the child's best interest.
Revised March 2014
PTLA # 326