If you are requesting child support from an ex, you may have questions about what criteria the court uses to determine the award amount.

Before the court can award child support, it must first calculate the net resources available to the paying parent. This involves adding up the total amount of income, as well as deducting certain items.


The first step in making a child support determination is identifying all the paying parent’s sources of income. This requires the paying parent’s cooperation in producing documentation, such as pay stubs or past income tax returns. Salary, wages and compensation for personal services all count as income, as do net rental income, self-employment income and income from dividends, interest or royalties. Additional types of income that also count toward net resources include the following:

  • Unemployment benefits
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Prizes or gifts
  • Pensions/retirement benefits
  • Some social security benefits
  • Severance pay

This list is not all inclusive.


The court will deduct certain expenses from the paying parent’s income for purposes of determining child support. These deductions include federal and state income taxes, as well as social security taxes. Deductions not related to taxes include union dues and medical expenses for the child’s benefit.


The paying parent may have some resources that the court does not include while making its determination. Examples include payments for the foster care of a child and benefits from public assistance programs. Additionally, accounts receivable and return of capital or principal are also exempt.

Other considerations

Once the court has calculated the paying parent’s net resources, another consideration that goes into determining your child support award is how many children you have with your ex. The more children you have together, the greater percentage of his or her monthly net income the paying parent is likely to owe in child support. However, if your ex also has children from a previous relationship for whom he or she is paying child support, that may serve to decrease your award.