When a couple gets married, divorce is the end goal. The day of your marriage, you think you’ll be with your partner forever, but as we all know, that reality doesn’t come true for many adults. The reasons for divorce are endless, but if you have children, one point is inevitable: the fact that one spouse will have to pay child support.

The United States employs three different formulas to calculate support payments: the income shares model, percentage of income model and the Melson Formula. Each state has the right to chose which method they would like to use. Delaware uses the formula developed in its state, the Melson Formula.

The Melson Formula is a more detailed version of the income shares model. The Melson Formula recognizes that the basic needs of the parent must be met for them to care for the child, while also employing a Standard of Living Adjustment (SOLA). The SOLA states that the non-custodial parent is required to share any of their extra income with the share to equate for the non-custodial parent’s higher standard of living.

The Melson Formula has four fundamental guidelines.

  1. Each parent has the right to secure the amount of income needed to meet their basic needs before determining child support payments. 
  2. After subtracting the income for essential needs, each parent’s remaining income is used to calculate support payments.
  3. The parents cannot explicitly secure any additional income for themselves other than necessities.
  4. When the primary needs of the parent and child are met, and support payments are determined, the non-custodial parent must share any additional income with the child(ren) to satisfy the Standard of Living Adjustment.

For low-income couples, the Melson Formula secures each parent a self-support reserve to ensure their basic needs are met in times of poverty.

The reality is that we can’t predict the future. If divorce has become your reality, a well-versed family law attorney could be your biggest advocate during this stressful time.