Child Support Note Placed On Top Of Dollars

What Is Considered “Income” When Calculating Child Support?

Shep Law Group May 29, 2024

Child support is a critical part of securing the financial well-being of children following a separation or divorce. It represents the contributions both parents must make to cover their child's essential needs, such as housing, education, and healthcare. However, determining what constitutes "income" for child support calculations can often be challenging. 

This is due to the various forms of income and benefits parents may receive, including wages, bonuses, investments, and even self-employment revenue, all of which might be taken into consideration when calculating child support obligations.  

If you're facing child support obligations, understanding what is and isn't considered "income" can be overwhelming. At Shep Law Group, we offer the guidance you need to help you understand Idaho child support calculations and to make sure the child support determination is fair and equitable.  

Located in Boise and Meridian, Idaho, we serve clients throughout Ada County and Canyon County, and we handle cases statewide.

Understanding Child Support Obligations 

Child support obligations refer to the legal requirement for a non-custodial parent to provide financial support to their children. These obligations are intended to make sure that the child's basic needs are adequately met and to maintain the child's standard of living and well-being after a separation or divorce. 

Child support payments typically cover necessities such as food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and educational expenses. Additional factors, such as childcare costs, extracurricular activities, and special needs, may also be considered.  

In Idaho, the term "income," as it pertains to child support, is broadly defined to encompass various sources of earnings and benefits. According to Idaho's child support guidelines, income includes any financial gain from virtually any source, unless explicitly stated otherwise. 

What Is Considered "Income" for Child Support? 

The Idaho Child Support Guidelines defines "income" as including but not limited to:  

  • Salaries and wages, including commissions, bonuses, and severance pay 

  • Self-employed income 

  • Investment income, such as dividends, annuities, and interest 

  • Pensions and retirement income, including trusts  

  • Alimony 

  • Workers' compensation benefits 

  • Government benefits, such as Social Security benefits, veteran's benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, and disability insurance benefits 

  • Education grants, scholarships, and other financial aid 

  • Disability and retirement payments to or on behalf of a child 

Each source of income can be considered a part of a parent's gross income when calculating the amount of child support owed. However, the impact of each on child support calculations largely depends on each parent's financial circumstances. 

Additional Considerations and Special Circumstances 

In addition to a parent's gross income, fringe benefits and potential income are also considered when calculating child support in Idaho.  

Significant fringe benefits that reduce a parent's living expenses, such as a company car, free housing, or meals, will be considered. If a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, the court may also consider income based on potential earnings unless the parent is physically or mentally incapacitated. 

What Isn't Considered "Income" for Child Support? 

When calculating child support in Idaho, certain types of income are explicitly excluded from being considered part of a parent's gross income. The following sources of income are typically excluded from child support calculations: 

  • Public assistance benefits, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI), food stamps, and housing subsidies 

  • Child support payments received by a parent for other children 

  • Spousal maintenance or alimony received from previous relationships 

  • Income disbursed from a special needs trust 

  • Foster care payments 

  • Federal or state aid received through programs designed to assist low-income individuals 

By excluding these specific sources of income, Idaho's child support guidelines aim to ensure that the determination of child support is just and reflective of a parent's true financial capability. Understanding these exclusions can help parents better navigate the child support process and arrange equitable support plans that best serve the interests of their children. 

Impact of Parenting Time on Income Considerations 

Parenting time, often known as custody or visitation, plays a significant role in calculating child support obligations in Idaho. The amount of time a non-custodial parent spends with their child can directly impact the financial responsibilities assigned to each parent.  

When calculating child support, the court uses a shared custody formula if the non-custodial parent has the child for more than 25% of the time. This formula adjusts the basic child support amount to reflect the additional costs that may arise from the child spending significant time in both households.  

The rationale behind this adjustment is that both parents likely incur costs related to the child's upbringing, such as housing, food, and utilities, during their parenting time. 

For parents with joint physical custody, where the child spends equal or nearly equal time with both parents, the court carefully examines each parent’s financial contribution and adjusts child support obligations accordingly. In such cases, the court strives to balance the financial burden to prevent any undue hardship on either parent while ensuring the child's needs are met consistently. 

Ultimately, the goal of incorporating parenting time into income considerations is to foster a financial arrangement that supports the child's best interests, making sure they benefit from the involvement and resources of both parents, providing an equitable and sustainable support structure for the child’s overall well-being. 

Steps for Calculating Child Support in Idaho 

In Idaho, child support in Idaho is calculated using the "Income Shares Model," which estimates the amount each parent would spend on their children if the family were still intact. This amount is divided between the parents based on their respective incomes. Here’s an overview of the steps involved with calculating the child support amount: 

  1. Determine each parent's gross income: Calculate each parent's gross income from all their earning sources and benefits. Certain exclusions apply, including public assistance benefits and prior child support payments received.  

  1. Adjust for deductions: After determining the gross income, subtract the mandatory deductions to calculate the net income. Deductions may include federal and state income taxes, social security taxes, Medicare taxes, union dues, and mandatory contributions to retirement plans. 

  1. Calculate basic child support obligation: Once the net income is established, the Idaho Child Support Guidelines are used to determine the basic child support obligation. These guidelines provide a presumptive amount of child support based on the combined net incomes of both parents and the number of children requiring support. 

  1. Adjust for parenting time: If the non-custodial parent has the child for more than 25% of the time or both parents have joint custody, the court applies different formulas that modify the basic child support amount to recognize the costs associated with maintaining two households for the child. 

  1. Consider additional costs: The court then considers any additional costs that may influence the final child support amount, such as childcare expenses, health insurance premiums, uncovered medical expenses, and expenses for the child’s educational needs or special needs. 

  1. Determine the final support amount: The court evaluates the collected information to determine the final child support amount. This ensures that child support is distributed equitably, reflecting the true financial situations of both parents and the needs of the child. 

By adhering to these standard steps, Idaho courts aim to ensure that child support calculations are accurate, fair, and in the best interest of the child, providing a consistent framework for support obligations. 

Seek Experienced Legal Counsel 

Understanding what constitutes income for child support calculations in Idaho is essential for divorcing and separated parents. An experienced family law attorney can help you comprehensively define what is considered income and make sure child support obligations are fair and equitable. 

At Shep Law Group, we're here to help you establish a fair arrangement for child support. Located in Boise and Meridian, Idaho, reach out to us to schedule a free consultation and for more information on how we can help with child support calculations.