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Why do child support payment amounts vary from state to state?

When Texas parents split up, an aspect of the breakup includes negotiating child support. While there are federal guidelines for establishing the amount of support, each state is allowed to set up its own rules. In Texas, for example, courts do not take into account the custodial parent's income, so theoretically, this can lead to payments that are $100 higher than in other states.

There are other factors that can also affect child support payment amounts. The cost of living should play a role, but there are other factors that have a bigger impact, such as the court's concern with keeping payments manageable. The fear is that payment amounts that are too high might push away the non-custodial parent enough that they stop paying and even abandon the child. For self-employed parents, this seems to be a particular concern.

Support payments are affected by other variables as well. These include the cost of health insurance and whether the family is receiving public assistance or alimony. A parent's remarriage as well as other custodial children outside of the relationship might also be considered by the court when establishing a payment amount. A study by Custody X Change found that payment amounts in a hypothetical situation of split parents with two children ages 7 and 10 could have a range as wide as $700 from one state to another. In that case, the custodial parent in Massachusetts could receive $1,187 monthly, but if they moved 28 miles to Vermont, that payment cut be cut to $519. If the parent moved their children south to Virginia, the payment could be lower still.

In such cases, assistance from a family law lawyer may be valuable. The lawyer may explain how payments are calculated in their state and advise about possible moves and how the payment amount would be affected.

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