How to Prepare for a Child Support Hearing

One of the most stressful parts of any disagreement between parents, whether they are divorcing or were never married in the first place, is sorting out a parenting plan and custody schedule. When you add child support to that, it can get even worse.

A child support hearing is not something to take lightly. An improper decision can financially cripple either the payer or the payee. And a parent that feels financially taken advantage of may take their frustration out on their children, harming the relationship.

Visualize your schedule. Get a written parenting plan. Calculate your parenting time.

Make My Schedule and Plan Now

Some tips from practicing family lawyers

We asked several practicing family lawyers what they feel is important for a parent to do while preparing for a child support hearing. Here is what they said.

Show your full income

First impressions go a long way, even with judges. Family courts use the child support formula to determine which parent will pay support and to set a baseline figure.

A big part of that formula is both parents' income. But it's not only your W-2 income.

Darlene S. Wanger of Kaplan | Wanger LLP explains, "When parents come to Court on their hearing date, they should have with them copies of their last two-years of tax returns, their last two months of paystubs, any documentation showing any income from any other sources, such as bank interest income, or even cash payments, and any other documents or information with respect to deductions, such as property tax or mortgage interest deductions."

She continues, "Parents should also bring documents showing how much they pay for childcare (as that can also be included in the child support calculation) and any other information relevant to health insurance that a parent might pay for a child."

In a way, it might be helpful to think of the financial aspect of your child support hearing like a tax audit.

Don't fudge your math

Judges know that everyone leads a different life. From your job to your health, you aren't going to make the same amount or have the same expenses as everyone else. But when you quote your expenses to the family court, you better make sure you can back up your claim.

Raymond Hekmat of Hekmat Law & Mediation, P.C. warns, "The Court may question some of your expenses if it believes they are not reasonable, or if you are putting your needs in front of your child. Make sure your expenses are as accurate as possible, and represent your child's needs as well."

In other words, when you're working out your financials, make sure you can prove every expense you claim.

Understand the implications of your time split

Two major factors go into the child support calculation: the incomes of both parents and the time children spend with each parent.

Shane Nielson of the Family Law Group, LLP explains just how important the parenting time split is:

"This is the biggest single factor in the calculations, and is often a reason some parties fight about visitation. You enter the visitation percentage in the calculator to determine the guideline. The higher the percentage is for the paying parent, the lower amount he or she will pay."

Given the impact of parenting time, you'll want to make sure you know your exact percentage, especially if one of your goals is to avoid paying child support. Estimating can affect your child support by thousands of dollars a year.

The Custody X Change app lets you quickly and accurately calculate your exact parenting time.

With the app, you can tweak your schedule to see how even little changes affect your time share. And you'll see how your parenting time changes each year due to holidays and other events. The app also prevents common mathematical errors, such as double-counting time.

Whether you're paying or receiving child support, make sure your parenting time math is exact. The number that will affect you, your child and the other parent. It's not a job for estimation.

You're not going in front of Judge Judy

Your child support hearing can have big implications for the future of your co-parenting and child custody situation. That means it isn't the time or place to take the low road.

Anthony D. Storm of Storm Family Law advises, "Judges like solutions, not problems, so try and fashion your request to modify support in a manner that makes the court's job easier."

You should have your t's crossed and i's dotted before stepping foot in front of the judge. That means filling our your paperwork correctly and serving child support papers to the other parent as required.

In summary

Whether you are seeking child support or are being asked to pay child support, the formal hearing is extremely important. From the four family lawyers above that kindly supplied advice, one main point should be very clear.

Go to your hearing very well-prepared.

You'll want to have all of your finances in spotless and error free order. You'll want to present the judge with a plan and not a problem. And, most of all, you'll want to show respect to everyone involved.

Visualize your schedule. Get a written parenting plan. Calculate your parenting time.

Make My Schedule and Plan Now

Explore examples of common schedules

Explore common schedules

Join the 60,000+ other parents who have used our co-parenting tools

Organize your evidence

Track your expenses, journal what happens, and record actual time. Print organized, professional documents.

Co-parent civilly

Our parent-to-parent messaging system, which detects hostile language, lets you collaborate without the drama.

Get an accurate child support order

Child support is based on parenting time or overnights in most jurisdictions. Calculate time instead of estimating.

Succeed by negotiating

Explore options together with visual calendars and detailed parenting plans. Present alternatives and reach agreement.

Never forget an exchange or activity

Get push notifications and email reminders, sync with other calendar apps and share with the other parent.

Save up to $50,000 by avoiding court

Write your parenting agreement without lawyers. Our templates walk you through each step.

Make My Plan



Long distance schedules

Third party schedules


Summer break

Parenting provisions


How to make a schedule

Factors to consider

Parenting plans:

Making a parenting plan

Changing your plan

Interstate, long distance

Temporary plans

Guides by location:

Parenting plans

Scheduling guidelines

Child support calculators

Age guidelines:

Birth to 18 months

18 months to 3 years

3 to 5 years

5 to 13 years

13 to 18 years


Joint physical custody

Sole physical custody

Joint legal custody

Sole legal custody

Product features:

Software overview

Printable calendars

Parenting plan templates

Journal what happens

Expense sharing

Parenting time tracking

Calculate time & overnights

Ways to use:

Succeed by negotiating

Prepare for mediation

Get ready for court


Bring calm to co‑parenting. Agree on a schedule and plan. Be prepared with everything documented.

Make My Schedule and Plan Now

No thanks, I don't need a parenting plan