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Child support: Do you have to follow state guidelines?

If you and your spouse can work out child support payments on your own, then you should know that you don't necessarily have to go by the state's guidelines. However, it's important to know how much your child should get and why.

Most people who pay child support pay out around 17 percent of their income for a single child. This raises for each additional child. For people with lower incomes, coming up with 17 percent of their income for support could be difficult, and the courts do have special arrangements for those who qualify. However, no one should really go without paying support in some way.

Can you work out support without the input of a judge?

You can, and it's somewhat common, especially when both parents are dedicated to their children. A judge does reserve the right to reject any agreement you make, but they typically will not.

If you don't worry that the other parent won't support the child or often receive support without asking, then a court order may not seem necessary. For the recipient, it may be a good idea to get at least some form of a support order, just to be on the safe side. However, there are cases where parents with joint custody, which is more or less equal, do not pay support to one another. Instead, they share expenses as they arise.

What you do all comes down to your situation. If you and your spouse are on good terms, then having a support order might not be the right choice for you. It's always a possibility, though, if child support becomes a concern for you in the future.

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