Child support can be confusing to those unfamiliar with the process, and calculating it accurately and correctly is not as simple as it might first seem. If you face paying (or receiving) child support, you may be wondering exactly what kinds of income are (and are not) considered when calculating child support.
Who pays child support?
To make sure we are all on the same page, let's consider some child support basics. First, though it often seems like only one parent pays support, the reality is that both parents must contribute to the child's maintenance and support. Most of the time, one parent's contributions occur indirectly, because the child is living with him/her, while the other parent writes a check for his/her share. In Family Court lingo, the non-custodial parent pays support to the custodial parent. While the custodial parent is still responsible for supporting the child, the court assumes this parent pays his/her share for the child as needed.
How is child support calculated?
South Carolina's Child Support Guidelines were established to determine the appropriate amount of child support in cases where the parents have a combined gross monthly income of $30,000 or less (as of July 1, 2014). The Child Support Enforcement Division of the South Carolina Department of Social Services maintains an online calculator to help individuals estimate what they may be expected to pay in child support. The Guidelines consider the following factors: parties' gross monthly incomes, alimony between these parties, previously ordered child support, other children living in each home, health insurance premium for the child, and work-related child care expenses.
What income counts towards the calculation?
Under South Carolina's Child Support Guidelines, all income is not created equal. Some of the more obvious things that count towards a person's income include salary, wages, bonuses, and commissions. Other less obvious, but still important, sources of income are pension payments, severance pay, rental income, dividends, and even trust disbursements. Some of the more surprising categories of income that are included are alimony, Social Security benefits, and veterans' benefits, which all can count towards a person's income when calculating his/her child support obligation.
What doesn't count towards the calculation?
After all of those categories that are included, which ones are not? Supplemental Security Income (SSI), food stamps, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), and other general assistance programs. As you can tell, South Carolina embraces a very broad definition of income, and even things like reimbursements or in-kind payments that reduce a person's living expenses, such as car allowances or meal vouchers, can be included as income.