From how much it is to how it’s paid, child support can be confusing. Ultimately, the goal of child support is to ensure that both parents bear the financial responsibility associated with having and raising children.
Child support is handled on a state level, meaning each state has its own “rubric” for determining how much one party pays or is paid.
How Hawaii Calculates Child Support Payments
Each state calculates child support differently. Hawaii uses the State of Hawaii Child Support Guidelines Worksheet, which serves as a sort of formula. This outline takes into consideration:
- Each parent’s gross monthly income
- Money spent on the child’s medical insurance
- Child care expenses
And unlike some other states, it’s important to note that any child support for other children, from previous marriages or relationships, is not built into the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet. There are also guidelines for parents who have joint custody or extensive visitation rights.
Legal vs. Physical Custody
Legal custody refers to who has the ability to make decisions on the child’s behalf, and includes major issues like education, religion, and medical needs. Physical custody refers to the child’s permanent residence and which parent they live with. Like legal custody, physical custody can be joint (the child resides with each parent on a relatively equal basis) or sole (the child resides primarily with one parent and may have occasional visits with the other).
Is Child Support Mandatory?
Yes. It’s important to remember that once your child support is set, you must pay it in full and on time. If you don’t, you can be found in civil contempt of court. And while this usually does not result in jail time (as the ultimate goal is to make a person abide by the court ruling), you can be fined, lose your custody rights or visitation, or face other consequences.
Does Job Loss Affect Child Support?
Even if you recently lost your job or took a pay cut, you’re still required to pay the amount that was determined. Then, you can file a request for a modification based on your change of income. Until a judge signs off on the change, continue paying the agreed-upon amount.
When Can Child Support Payments be Changed?
Especially if you and your partner got divorced when your children were very young, there’s a good chance their needs, and therefore your child support payments, will need to be changed at some point. While there are numerous reasons why a judge may approve a modification, the most common reasons are:
- Changes in income. Child support payments can be changed if your monthly income substantially changes. And while changes are most often made because a parent loses their job or takes a pay cut, you can also be required to pay more if you receive a promotion, win the lottery, or are given a large inheritance/gift.
- New expenses regarding your child. As your child gets older, they will require different care. Once they age out of needing daycare, for example, you may be able to petition the court for a lower payment. However, if they suddenly need additional funds for schooling, medical care, dentistry, psychiatric care, etc., your child support might be increased.
- One parent gets married. If either party gets married, support payments may be changed.
- One parent has become incarcerated or disabled. Similar to the loss of a job, significant changes to your physical or mental health can also be a reason for changing your payment amount.