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  • Writer's pictureClaire Edwards

How does Louisiana calculate Child Support?


Generally, child support in Louisiana is calculated starting with the combined gross (yes, “gross,” not “net”) income of the parents. The next step is to determine the non-domiciliary spouse’s percentage of the total obligation. The court can decide whether a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. Practically speaking, this means the court will assess minimum wage to the parent who shows no income or too little income. Child support can be ordered even if there is no present income. When deciding the child support amount, the court can consider other sources of income, for example if a parent is re-married, the court will consider the benefits from the new spouse. Unless it is not in the best interest of the child, Judges are required to use the child support guidelines.


The primary factor to determine each parent’s ability to provide support is their “combined adjusted gross income.” The court’s goal is to reach the sum necessary to afford the child the same standard of living as the child enjoyed prior to the divorce, or the standard of living if the child were living with the non-custodial parent.


It seems that the parents’ duties to support their children are equal. It seems that an order of approximately equal physical custody to each parent may cancel out the need for child support. However, in reality, this rarely happens, because of differences in the incomes and situations of the parents. Therefore, under Louisiana law, the share of the total cost of child support for which each parent is response is proportional to the parent’s percentage share of the total income of both parents.

The entire point is to make an order of child support to allow the child to maintain the best possible standard of living. Sometimes one parent can be ordered to pay substantially more than the other when he can afford to do so, and this is particularly typical in a sole or joint custody arrangement. When there is a shared custody arrangement and in some joint custody arrangements, the court may adjust a child support award downward to reflect time spent by the child living in the home of the payor. In fact, a court may make a special monetary award to one spouse in order to enable that spouse to maintain adequate housing for a child.


If a parent is voluntarily unemployed or voluntarily underemployed, the court will determine that parent’s “potential income.” Generally, unemployment is not a ground for excusing a parent from paying child support unless the parent is shown also to be unemployable.

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