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Calculating support payments: How much child support do you have to pay?

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When parents separate and one parent cares for the children, the other parent is often required to provide financial assistance. This is called child support. But what happens when your ex fails to pay? Our legal experts at AXA ARAG answer these key questions.

Figuring out your child support payments

When a child lives primarily with one of the parents, this parent is often fully prevented from working. For this reason, the other parent is required to help support the child financially. Under Swiss law, it does not matter if the parents were married before they separated – the parent raising the child is entitled to child support. 

Child support consists of two parts – basic needs and lost earnings: 

  • The lost earnings component serves to compensate for the financial loss involved in having to care for children. This means that the parent caring for the children cannot work or cannot work full time because they are raising the children. There are clear rules to define this: Once the kids start school, the parent can work part time (50%); when they are in high school, the parent can work 80%; and once they are 16, the parent can work full time.  
  • The basic needs component covers the actual costs of raising a child, such as housing, general care, health insurance, school or training, clothing and food. All of these belong to the basic needs of a child. 

Generally speaking, the parent paying child support is entitled to a flat-rate deduction, i.e. they can deduct the full payments from their taxes. 

How to calculate child support

The court determines how much child support is owed to the children. The principle of judicial investigation applies to child support. This means that the court is not bound by the calculations or requests of the parties, e.g. the parents.  

Calculations may vary from region to region in Switzerland. The responsible court determines the child support depending on where the parents live. The method used most often is based on the needs of all parties involved. For children, these needs are based on the Zurich Cost of Raising a Child table. Other factors decisive in determining needs are the income of the parent making the payments, their professional situation, living expenses and the standard of living of the parent raising the children. 

(Zurich Cost of Raising a Child table, valid for 2023)

If the court doesn’t use the Zurich table to determine the amount of child support, other methods can be applied. One of these takes into account the financial means of the paying parent, for example. For a single child, approximately 15 to 17 percent of income is suggested for child support; for two children, 25 to 27 percent; and for three children, a substantial 30 to 35 percent. 

How long must the paying parent pay?

The paying parent must pay child support until the child turns 18. If the child has not completed appropriate eduction up to this point (completion of an apprenticeship or high school diploma), then payments must continue to be made beyond age 18.   

The amount of child support for an adult child can be agreed directly between the child and the paying parent, without the approval of a government agency or court. If no agreement can be reached, the child entitled to child support must contact the court. 

What does “relevant for child support” mean?

“Relevant for child support” does not refer to who must pay, but rather to the income used to determine the payment. Basically, the calculation is based on net income, including the 13th month salary, bonuses and similar income components. Cost savings, such as a paying parent who lives rent free, are also taken into account for calculating the child-support-relevant income. 

Calculating alimony and child support – Frequently Asked Questions

What do I do if my ex is not paying child support?

If you are not receiving the child support payments you are entitled to, then contact your ex and set a reasonable deadline for payment. If your ex does not pay by this deadline, then initiate proceedings against your ex for the outstanding amount with the debt collection office where your ex is resident. In such cases, you can also apply for state assistance so you receive financial support while waiting for the payments you are owed.

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Is alimony calculated differently for divorce and separation of an unmarried couple?

Yes, there are differences. Child support is determined in the same way, but alimony is not required for unmarried couples, for example. It’s important to note that children are entitled to child support, which is why unmarried couples with children are also subject to child support.  

Can the amount of child support payments change?

Yes, they can be increased or decreased retroactively. This reassessment can either come from a mutual agreement between the parents themselves or as a decision handed down by the court. Generally, changes in the standard of living of one of the parents or in the needs of the child give rise to an adjustment in support payments. One example of this is a permanent change to income. 

Must child support be increased if a child is diagnosed with a disease?

In certain situations, yes. If a so-called extraordinary need is determined to exist for a child that was not present when the child support was originally calculated, then the payments must be adjusted. Examples of a specific extraordinary need are long-term therapy or different childcare due to illness an accident, such as the lifelong consequences of an accident. 

What happens if the other parent takes over childcare?

In this case, child support is determined based on the individual financial means of the parents and the share they contribute to childcare. If their shares are equal, then the parents will each share half of the support. If they share childcare equally, but have different financial means, then support payments will be determined proportionate to each parent’s income. If parents have the same financial means, but their share of childcare differs, then their financial share will be based on their respective co-parenting responsibilities. It's important to note that each case must always be assessed individually.

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