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This content was last updated on 2/13/2024

What is child support?

Child support is a parent’s court-ordered payment to help with the costs of raising a child. Child support normally stops when a child turns 18. However, if the child is still in high school when he or she turns 18, child support will continue until high school graduation or at least until the end of the school year when the child turns 19.

When do courts get involved in setting child support?

During a marriage or committed relationship, child support is rarely a concern for the court. But when parents divorce or stop living together with their children as a family, the courts often become involved. Like custody, the amount of support can be decided by agreement or by a court action where a judge sets the support.

How do I get child support?

A parent or someone on the child’s behalf must bring a court case to get an order for child support. A judge can order child support in a:

What if the other parent and I agree on child support?

Both parents can agree about the amount of child support to be paid and ask the court to make this agreement part of a court order. But the court reviews the child support amount to make sure it is fair and in the child’s best interest.

In most cases, the court won’t let child support be waived completely. Waived means excusing someone from paying.

How is the amount of child support figured out?

Kentucky has child support guidelines written into law since 1990. The guidelines use a formula for calculating child support based on each parent's gross income. These guidelines are used in child support cases unless it can be shown that using the guidelines would be unfair and inappropriate in a case.

What if a parent doesn’t have any income?

If a parent is employed to full capacity, then their actual gross income is used to figure out child support. Sometimes parents quit their jobs, or take a job that pays less, or are not working for other reasons. Some of these parents may be ordered to pay child support based on what they could earn. This is called “Potential Income.”

Potential income can be set using what the parent used to earn. Or if they don’t have much work history, it can be set at minimum wage working 30 hours per week.

Note: potential income isn't used for unemployed or underemployed parents in 3 situations:

  • if the parent is physically or mentally disabled
  • if the parent is in jail
  • if the parent is caring for a child that is 3 years old or younger that the parents have a joint legal responsibility to.
How can I figure out how much child support I should get - or how much I have to pay?

You can use the Child Support Estimation Calculator.

You can find the calculator at:

Make sure you have this information to use the Calculator:

  • The number of children that need support
  • Gross monthly salary and other sources of income for you and the other parent
  • The amount you or the other parent pay for child’s health insurance
  • The amount you or the other parent pay for court-ordered spousal support for a former spouse
  • The amount of child support you or the other parent pay for older children
  • The amount you or the other parent pay for childcare expenses for the child, so you or the other parent can work or go to school
When can child support be changed or modified?

If you already have a child support order, you can ask the same court to raise or lower the amount of child support if there has been a “substantial change of circumstances” since the last order. To do this, you have to show the court there is a reason for the change.

Here are some reasons why child support could be changed:

  • A parent gets a raise or a new job that pays more
  • A parent loses a job
  • The child’s needs increase
  • A change in the custody arrangement
  • The cost of the child’s insurance goes up or down
  • Childcare costs go up or down
  • The child turns 18 but is still in high school (not college)
  • The child is over 18 but is disabled

The court won’t change the child support order unless the child support amount goes up or down by at least 15%.

The other parent and I have split custody. Our child stays with each one of us half-time and we make joint decisions. How is child support set in this case?

When parents have a split custody arrangement:

  • 2 separate child support calculations are done. One for each household, using the number of children born out of the relationship in each household.
  • The parent who has more monthly responsibility pays the difference between the obligation amounts to the other parent.
If I get Social Security disability benefits and my child gets monthly benefits from my Social Security, how is my child support calculated?

Child support is calculated using the Child Support Guidelines. Once your child support amount is set, the amount of benefits your child gets because of your disability are subtracted from how much you have to pay.

If I give up my rights to custody and parenting time, do I still have to pay child support?

Yes. Children have the legal right to be financially supported by both parents. A parent can’t avoid paying child support by giving up custody or parenting time rights.

Can I refuse parenting time to the other parent if they are behind in child support?

No. Parenting time can't be limited or denied to try to get child support. There are other actions you can take if your child’s parent is behind on their child support payments.

Do I still have to pay child support if the other parent won’t let me see my child?

Yes. If there is a child support order that says you have to pay child support, you have to pay even if you don’t see your child. There are other actions you can take if the other parent is not letting you see your child.

Do I have to be the child's parent to get child support?

No. If a child lives with you and depends on you for support, you may be able to get child support from one or both parents. For example, grandparents raising their grandchildren can get child support from the parents. This information section talks about child support for parents since they are usually the ones paying and getting child support, but the this information can also be used by grandparents and other people caring for children.

What can happen to me if I am behind in my court ordered child support payments?

If you don’t pay child support, the other parent can file to bring you back to court. This is called a motion for contempt. After hearing the evidence, the Court may find you in contempt of court.

Things that might happen include:

  • the court ordering your employer to take money out of your paycheck
  • money taken from your unemployment benefits to pay for the child support
  • you could lose your driver’s license, hunting or fishing license or other professional license
  • your tax refunds could be taken
  • liens could be placed against your property

If you are behind in your child support and the Family Court finds that you failed to pay on purpose (called willfully), you could go to jail. What the court decides to do depends on the facts and details of your case.

Is child support tax deductible?

No. If you make child support payments, you can’t deduct them from your income when you file your taxes.

If you get child support payments, you don’t count them as income when you file your taxes.

These tax rules are the same for both federal income tax and Kentucky income tax.

Does child support stop when my child turns 18?

If the support order is for more than one child, it doesn’t automatically end when one of the children reaches 18 (or 19 if still in high school) unless:

  • that child is the youngest child or
  • the child support order listed a separate amount of child support for each child.

If neither of these conditions exists, ask the court that made the order to change the order because your child is 18 or is 19 and not in high school.

Can I get KTAP benefits and still get child support?

If a parent gets KTAP benefits and also gets child support, the State Disbursement Unit (SDU) sends the child support payment to IV-D Services. Then IV-D Services pays the parent getting KTAP either $50 per month or the child support payment, whichever is less, and the welfare check. This is called a "pass-through" payment. The IV-D Services keeps the rest of the child support amount. If the parent stops getting welfare from the IV-D Services, they need to tell the SDU so that they can now get the entire child support payment.

How is child support paid?

In most cases, child support payments are taken directly out of the paycheck of the parent who is paying.

The process starts when a form is sent to the parent’s employer. The form is a Uniform Child Support Order and/or Wage/Income Withholding Order found here: ( OR an Income Withholding for Support Order found here: (

The employer has to follow the Order by taking the child support money out of the paycheck and sending it to the State Disbursement Unit (SDU). The SDU then records the child support payment and sends the payment to the other parent.

The parent paying child support has to make sure that their employer is taking the right amount out of their paycheck. If the employer doesn’t take the money out and send it to the SDU, the paying parent has to send it.

Child support can also be taken from other kinds of income, like unemployment insurance and worker’s compensation.

If I don’t have a lawyer, is there a place I can go in Kentucky to get help with setting child support or enforcing a child support order?

Yes. You can contact Child Support Enforcement Office. They can help anyone who has physical custody of a child and needs help with things like:

  • establishing the identity of the father of the child,
  • establishing a child support order or
  • collecting current or past-due child support

This includes a parent who is separated from their spouse even if no divorce action has been filed. A man who thinks he is the biological father of a child born out of wedlock can also apply for services.

You can find find your local office here:


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