Child Support Guideline Models by State
Updated April 2013
There are roughly three child support guideline models used by the states:
The Income Shares Model is based on the concept that the child should receive the same proportion of parental income that he or she would have received if the parents lived together. In an intact household, the income of both parents is generally pooled and spent for the benefit of all household members, including any children.
The Percentage of Income Model sets support as a percentage of only the noncustodial parent's income; the custodial parent's income is not considered. This model has two variations: the Flat Percentage Model and the Varying Percentage Model.
The Melson Formula is a more complicated version of the Income Shares Model, which incorporates several public policy judgments designed to insure that each parent's basic needs are met in addition to the children's. The Melson Formula was developed by a Delaware Family Court judge and fully explained in Dalton v. Clanton, 559 A.2d 1197 (Del. 1989).
All of the guideline models have certain aspects in common. First, most of the guidelines incorporate a "self-support" reserve for the obligor. Second, all the guidelines have a provision relating to imputed income. Third, by federal regulation, all the guidelines take into consideration the health care expenses for the children, by insurance or other means. Lastly, most of the guidelines have incorporated into the presumptive child support formula special additions for child care expenses, special formulas for shared custody, split custody, and extraordinary visitation, and special deductions for the support of previous and subsequent children.
Guideline Models By State
Source: NCSL Research, February 2012.
*PLEASE NOTE: The National Conference of State Legislatures is an organization serving state legislators and their staff. We cannot offer legal advice or assistance with individual cases, but we do try to answer questions on general topics.
For more information regarding NCSL's child support work, please visit our Child Support Homepage.
About This NCSL Project
NCSL staff in D.C. and Denver can provide comprehensive, thorough, and timely information on critical child support policy issues. We provide services to legislators and staff working to improve state policies affecting children and their families. NCSL's online clearinghouse for state legislators includes resources on child support policy, financing, laws, research and promising practices. Technical assistance visits to states are available to any state legislature that would like training or assistance related to this topic.
The Denver-based child support project staff focuses on state policy, tracking legislation and providing research and policy analysis, consultation, and technical assistance specifically geared to the legislative audience. Denver staff can be reached at (303) 364-7700 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
NCSL staff in Washington, D.C. track and analyze federal legislation and policy and represent state legislatures on child support issues before Congress and the Administration. In D.C., Joy Johnson Wilson at 202-624-8689 or by e-mail at email@example.com and Rachel Morgan at (202) 624-3569 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The child support project and D.C. human services staff receive guidance and support from NCSL's Standing Committee on Health & Human Services.