Articles

Nuances of the Child Support Guidelines

By: Attorney Nicole J. Huckerby
A PRIMER ON CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES

Child Support Guidelines are used to establish or modify a payor’s child support obligation. Basically the Guidelines say if income is A and the number of children is B, child support payments will be C.

It is important that the attorney you hire understands the ins and outs of these Guidelines. Otherwise, as the payor you may be required to pay more child support than your circumstances warrant or as the payee you may receive less child support than you should.

As the parent receiving support you need to make sure that all of the payor’s income is considered, such as wages, interest and dividends, rental income, distributions from retirement plans, interest in an estate, disability payments, worker’s compensation, unemployment benefits, net gambling winnings, the value of in-kind benefits, and imputed income.

As the payor parent, you need to ensure that an accurate gross income is used to determine your obligation. If you have sporadic or fluctuating income such as seasonal work, bonuses or commissions, the amount of sporadic income includable as gross income is determined by averaging over the prior three years.

To accurately verify your spouse or ex-spouse’s income you should always obtain as many documents as possible, including tax returns, W-2 forms, 1099 forms, paystubs and for the self-employed, statements of business receipts and expenses.

In addition to ensuring that gross income is properly determined, it is important that your attorney understand what expenses are included in the child support calculation under the Guidelines and when it can be argued that the Guidelines should be modified or disregarded.

Expenses that are included in the calculation under the Guidelines are housing, food, clothing, transportation, unreimbursed medical expenses up to $250 per year, entertainment and other miscellaneous expenses. The calculation is based upon the “average family. “ The Child Support Guidelines are assumed to be correct unless a parent can show that circumstances exist that make an application of the Guidelines inappropriate. The Court has the discretion to modify the Guidelines to meet the needs of the child or a parent’s special circumstances.

If you have expenses beyond those covered by the Guidelines, especially those that are predictable and recurring, an argument can be made to the Court that additional expenses should be included in the child support calculation. Expenses that are routinely added are childcare, health insurance, and predictable and recurring unreimbursed health care expenses that exceed $250 per child per year. It can be argued that other predictable and recurring expenses, such as private elementary or secondary education, special needs for disabled children or gifted children, tutoring and special dietary needs, should also be included.

A competent attorney will also recognize nuances in the Guidelines that may allow you to obtain additional warranted child support. For example, under the category of clothing, footwear is included; however, special footwear such as that required for sports is not included. Accordingly, if your child is routinely involved in a sport that requires expensive footwear you may be entitled to an additional amount of child support to pay for that expense.

In the event your child is 12 years of age or older when the initial child support award is entered, that award and all subsequent awards should be adjusted upward by 14.6%. The Guidelines are only intended to apply to children ages 0 to 17 or those children who are still attending high school. The Court looks to statutes and case law when determining whether continued child support is warranted for children attending college.

In summary, while the Guidelines are assumed to be correct, there are numerous areas where a competent attorney can argue that your unique situation justifies modifying or disregarding them.

Learn more about Child Custody Law

 

Legal Resources:
Articles Blogs Video Center Glossary

1-800-432-LAWS