Shared Parenting/Joint Custody and Child Support

Published 02/29/16 by Andrew Brasse

Having prepared many Shared Parenting Plans or Joint Custody Agreements over the years, I often receive a simple question from my client: Why do I have to pay child support if I have Shared Parenting (Joint Custody)?

The central focus of a Shared Parenting Plan is the shared responsibilities and decision-making between the parents of a child(ren). However, that actual parenting time allocation between the parties does not have to be equally shared under the plan. In fact, in the majority of Shared Parenting Plans that I have prepared, the parties do not agree to an even division of parenting time. In many cases a parent may agree to have a standard amount of parenting time (approximately every other weekend), but he/she may want to be involved in the decision-making regarding the children. He/she would still be obligated to pay the standard amount of support under Ohio’s Child Support Guidelines.

It is much more common, though, in Shared Parenting Plans for the parent to have more than the minimum amount of parenting time. If he/she were to have the child(ren) every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, or 12 out of 28 days in a four week cycle, what would be the child support? Most courts would order, absent an agreement of the parties, to set his/her child support much lower than the guideline support. The court would be deviating the support down to a lesser amount due to the parent having that much parenting time per month.

Even if the parenting time is completely equal, there still may be a child support order. For example, if Father makes $100,000.00 per year and Mother makes $20,000.00 per year, Father would likely still be ordered to pay some amount of child support. The rationale is that he is much more capable to financially provide for the children, so a child support order would help Mother to provide a somewhat similar upbringing financially for the child(ren).

In the end, whether or not there is a Shared Parenting Plan, child support primarily focuses on the amount of money both parties makes, any relevant child support deductions, and the relative parenting time between the parties. If there is much of a disparity in either parenting time or income between the parties, there will likely be a child support order. In Ohio the terms “Shared Parenting” or “Joint Custody” have never meant to zero out child support obligations.