If you moved to a neighboring state, would you believe your monthly child support payment could double? A new study shows striking variations in child support payments from state to state.
For example, a divorced mom living in Newbury, Vermont with two young kids might receive $519 per month in child support. But a parent in identical circumstances living in nearby Haverhill, New Hampshire would receive $1,035.
The study, conducted by Custody X Change, based its calculations on a hypothetical divorced couple with two kids, ages seven and ten. In this scenario, the mother makes $45,000 and the father earns $55,000. Mom has 65% of the parenting responsibilities while dad, who doesn’t have primary custody, makes up the other 35%. (This 65% to 35% split is the one that U.S. judges most commonly order, according to another study.)
The study found that payments for this family ranged from a low of $402 in Virginia to a high of $1,187 in Massachusetts.
Differences Don’t Depend on Cost of Living or Political Affiliation
If you went looking for a reasonable explanation for these differences, you probably wouldn’t find one. The research showed that the differences don’t depend on the state’s cost of living or on its dominant politics—average awards from Red and Blue states for the hypothetical family were just $13 apart.
The wildly varying amounts most likely arise from the legal rules that require each state to develop child support guidelines. These guidelines are supposed to help state judges make appropriate and consistent child support awards. Some states focus their guidelines on the cost of living in the state while others don’t. Some use current data while others don’t seem to refer to any evidence at all. Given this, it’s no wonder that nationwide outcomes are scattershot.
But It’s Not That Easy to Change a Child Support Payment
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can raise or lower a child support payment by simply moving house. The rules for establishing or changing child support payments are much more complicated than that. To learn more about it, see Can You Change Child Support Payment Amounts By Moving to a Different State?
To learn more about the study, and to see the ranking for each state, visit Custody X Change.
To get more Child Custody information and resources for your county and state, see Legal Consumer’s child custody learning center.