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Child support calculators should be used with caution

North Carolina parents who are going through a divorce might have used child support calculators to estimate the amount that will be ordered by the court. But child support calculators are only capable of giving a rough estimate of what child support amounts will actually be. Without understanding that, a parent could be in for a surprise when the actual amount of child support is decided by a judge.

Every state offers some method of estimating child support payments, with worksheets or online calculators being the most common. A person must provide certain information and answer questions to get an estimate. But when the actual amount of child support payments is determined by a judge, the amount could be very different than the estimate because calculators don't consider many factors that a judge might.

Judges are obligated to use specific formulas to determine child support payment amounts, but they are allowed to use their own discretion or include additional things into their formulas such as the costs of day care, medical emergencies or private school. A judge might also make a different determination on things such as how much time the child will spend with each parent. If a parent who used a calculator guessed incorrectly at this type of question, the actual child support amount could very well be different.

It is possible for parents to negotiate a child support agreement, but it will need to be submitted to the court for its approval. The decision is not necessarily permanent, however. Either parent can request a child support agreement modification when circumstances change, such as income or the addition or elimination of expenses for the child, and an attorney can often be of assistance in this regard.

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