When your family includes minor children (under age 18, or up to age 19 if still enrolled full time in high school or an equivalent), the court will want to assure that both parents have sufficient financial resources to care for your child(ren). The court can order child support. Child support is an obligation to pay support for a marital or non-marital child. There are several factors the court must consider when calculating child support.
FACTORS THAT AFFECT CHILD SUPPORT CALCULATIONS:
- The monthly income available for support, as defined by statute, case law and administrative rules;
- The type of placement schedule that is court-ordered: primary placement or shared placement;
- The appropriate percentage standard based on the support guidelines;
- The facts that may make a deviation from the guidelines appropriate.
Monthly Income Available for Support. In order to calculate the support obligation, the court must first determine a parent’s monthly income available for support. The monthly income available for support is based on the parent’s gross monthly income, from all sources including, but not limited to salary and wages, interest and investment income, social security disability, voluntary deferred compensation, employee contributions to any employee benefit plan or profit-sharing, and voluntary employee contributions to any pension or retirement, military allowances and veteran’s benefits, undistributed income of a corporation, including a closely–held corporation, or any partnership, and all other income except that which is specifically exempt. Gross monthly income does not include child support, foster care payments, kinship care payments, public assistance benefits, food stamps, cash benefits paid by counties, supplemental security income, and payments made for social services or any other public assistance benefits. Calculating income for parents who are self-employed can be very tricky and should be left to the expertise of experienced family law attorneys. Also, if one parent is underemployed, the court can consider whether that parent is SHIRKING. Also, if a parent is earning less that his/her full earning capacity, the court can IMPUTE INCOME: that means the court will calculate support based on the income the court believes the parent can earn, regardless of whether or not the parent is actually earning that income.
Placement schedule. When following the guidelines for a support obligation, the support order is calculated based on the amount of time each parent has with a child. The amount of time a parent has with a child is calculated based on the number of court-ordered overnights each parent has with a child, or the equivalent care for the child. A placement schedule can be a primary placement schedule or a shared placement schedule:
- SHARED PLACEMENT: results in a schedule in which each parent has at least 25% of court-ordered physical placement of a child.
- PRIMARY PLACEMENT: results in a schedule in which one parent has the majority of overnight placement, and the other parent has less than 25% of the overnight placement.
Percentage Standards. The percentage standard is the percentage which, when multiplied by the payer’s monthly income available for support results in the payer’s presumed guideline support obligation.
SUPPORT CALCULATIONS FOR FAMILIES IN WHICH ONE PARENT HAS PRIMARY PLACEMENT:
- One child: 17% of income available for support
- Two children: 25% of income available for support
- Three children: 29% of income available for support
- Four children: 31% of income available for support
- Five or more children: 34% of income available for support
SUPPORT CALCULATIONS FOR FAMILIES WITH SHARED PLACEMENT: In a shared placement situation the court will consider the amount of support each parent will pay. The court will consider how much mom would pay for the child(ren) for the time the child(ren) are with dad and offset that figure by the amount dad would pay for the time the child(ren) are with mom.
Deviations. In some cases the court may deviate from the standard percentage guidelines. Deviations are rare, and a parent is wise to have an experienced family law attorney to assist if deviations are being considered by the court. In determining if a deviation is appropriate the court must consider all of the following factors:
- The financial resources of the child;
- The financial resources of both parents;
- Maintenance received by either party;
- The needs of each party in order to support himself or herself;
- The needs of any person, other than the child, whom either party is legally obligated to support;
- If the parties were married, the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not ended in annulment, divorce, or legal separation;
- The desirability that the custodian remain in the home as full-time parent;
- The costs of child care if the custodian works outside the home, or the value of custodial services performed by the custodian if the custodian remains in the home;
- The award of substantial periods of physical placement to both parents;
- Extraordinary travel expenses incurred in exercising the right to periods of physical placement;
- The physical, mental, and emotional health needs of the child, including any cost for health insurance;
- The child’s educational needs;
- The tax consequences to each party;
- The best interest of the child;
- The earning capacity of each parent, based on each parent’s education, training and work experience and the availability of work in or near the parent’s community;
- Any other factors which the court in each case determines are relevant;
Alternative Calculation for Special Circumstances. The court has alternative support calculations that can be applied to meet the special circumstances of families in the following situations:
- High income payer
- Low income payer
- Serial payer
- Split placement parents
If you have questions regarding a child support order or modifying a child support order, contact one of the experienced family law attorneys at Your Family Law Center, S.C.
Phone: (608) 819-6800 Email: [email protected]