Joint Custody Child Support: Questions and Answers

Even with joint custody child support can still be ordered, which comes as a surprise to many parents; especially if they have pushed for shared custody in the mistaken belief that they won't be required to pay child support.


First of all, joint legal custody (meaning the parents jointly make decisions concerning the child) will usually have no impact on how much child support will be ordered. It's in situations of joint or shared physical custody (meaning the child lives with both parent) when the child support issues come up.

The main purpose of child support is to insure the child is provided for adequately, regardless of which parent the child is staying with. For example, a parent earning much less than the other parent will probably get some amount of child support to ensure that the child has sufficient care while staying with the lesser earning parent. In a situation where each parent has approximately the same income, there may be no child support ordered. 

Not all states have provisions for calculating joint custody child support so it's calculated on an individual basis. Some states determine the amount of joint custody child support relative to the percentage of time the child resides with each parent. The amount of child support ordered and how it is calculated will depend on which state has custody jurisdiction. Below you will find joint custody child support questions that have been answered by the legal advisor. 

Joint Custody Child Support FAQs

Will he have to pay support if we share joint custody?

Elizabeth's Question: Does a man have to pay support for the child if they have joint custody? If yes, why?

Brette's Answer: It depends on what kind of joint custody you are talking about. Legal custody has to do with decision making authority and has nothing to do with child support. Joint physical custody is actually a vague term and what matters is how time is divided. In most joint physical custody situations, the child's time is divided between the parents in a way that means one parent has more time than the other with the child. With this type of joint custody, child support is payable. If this is a true 50/50 time share, child support is often still ordered to be paid by the parent with more money to the one with less, but there are certainly cases in which none is ordered.

What reasons will the court accept for not ordering child support?

Michaelia's Question: Me and my husband are going through an uncontested divorce and plan on sharing custody of our daughter. Neither of us wants child support, but the court insists one of us receive it unless we have a good reason not to. We still share a bank account that we have access to at all times. We both plan on going back to school so we will both be unemployed for a time. What does the court consider good reasons for not ordering child support?

Brette's Answer: The reasons you listed are the ones you want to offer. If you have a true shared custody arrangement (50/50) that bolsters your argument. If neither of you wants it, they can't force you to agree to it.

Can I still get child support if we share custody?

Stephanie's Question: I am seeking primary physical custody of our children, as I have been the primary caretaker of the children since they were born. My husband wants joint custody so he won't have to pay child support. Does it work that way?

Brette's Answer: First of all, you need to understand that child support is almost always payable, even when the parents split their time 50/50. Additionally, most courts do not order a 50/50 split of time because it can be hard for some children and can be logistically difficult.

What if he no longer wants to pay child support?

Diane's Question: We have joint custody of our 2 kids and he pays child support for one. He recently made remarks of not wanting to pay child support and wants me to take it off. Knowing him I could imagine him wanting to file child support on me if I don't do it. I do not work, I am married now with one other daughter. What would happen in this scenario?

Brette's Answer: He doesn't get to decide that he doesn't want to pay child support. You have an order in place. If he wants to try to modify it he can ask a court to do so. It sounds unlikely that you could be required to pay child support in your situation and he certainly can't ask a judge to require you to pay child support because he doesn't want to. It's based on income, formulas, and state laws. 

Will going from 50/50 custody to a 2-2-5-5 schedule affect child support?

Jody's Question: My ex and I are considering switching to a 2-2-5-5 parenting schedule. If I agree to the switch, does that change the way the court views our otherwise 50/50 custody for the purposes of calculating child support?

Brette's Answer: You should consult your attorney to understand your state's rules about this. 

Is back child support affected if we change to split custody?

Sonya's Question: My sixteen year old son has requested to live with his dad. His father currently owes child support arrears to me in the amount of $106000. In this situation will I owe him child support if he is given custody? We have two children and one will remain in my care.

Brette's Answer: The arrears are not wiped out by the change. Since you have two other children it is likely you will not have to pay him, but the amount he owes you going forward would be lower.

Will support increase if my daughter lives with me more?

Jodi's Question: My ex and I used to have my daughter 50/50, but he has recently remarried has decided not to see her but one day a week and every other weekend. Now my daughter calls me when she is with him and complains that he is hitting her and does not want to be with him. If she stays with me full time and not as the divorce papers state, can I get an increase in child support?

Brette's Answer: I think your primary concern ought to be that your daughter is being physically abused, not the amount of money you're getting. You can file for a modification of custody based on this situation. Worry about the child support later.

How does support work if one child lives with him and two with me?

Jen's Question: We have three children, and our oldest chooses to stay with his dad. The younger two will be living with me. How does child support work in this situation?

Brette's Answer: Technically, you would pay him for the one child and he would pay you for the two, but in practicality one is going to be cancelled out so he would owe you for one.

Will he owe support if we each have a child living with us?

Sandra's Question: I am a mother of a 17 year old and a 14 year old. My oldest went to live with my ex a couple of months ago. He is telling me he owes me no more child support since one child lives with me and the other lives with him. How true is that? Since my oldest will graduate in a year isn't my ex still required to support my 14 year old?

Brette's Answer: First of all, if there has been a change in custody, you should have an order reflecting that. Child support is then determined based on income, so it needs to be recalculated. If he earns more than you, he may still owe you child support. Once the child living with him ages out of the child support order, then he would still be responsible for supporting the younger child living with you.

Who is responsible for extracurricular activities if we share custody?

Brenda's Question: I was awarded child support although we co-parent the children equally. Who is responsible for paying for school field trips, after school activities, sports etc.? My divorce decree does not specify and he feels the child support should cover it all. Not sure I agree since I am the one that usually signs them up. Medical we split so why wouldn't this be the same?

Brette's Answer: Unless your decree specifically lays out other expenses he is to be responsible or partially responsible for, they are your responsibility (find out more about how extraordinary expenses beyond child support are split).


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