If you ever bought a used car or a home, then you know that you can negotiate a price. But when it comes to child support, you have to follow the state’s guidelines. In other words, child support is not a negotiable item unless you mutually agree to an amount that the court will approve. Otherwise, the parent to whom support is owed is under no obligation to negotiate an amount that is less than what the guidelines provide. However, if circumstances indicate that the guideline amount is unjust or inappropriate, then the court can deviate from it upwards or downwards.
All parents have a legal duty to financially support their children, whether married or or not. If you are the non-custodial parent or have shared physical custody but earn more than the other parent, you will have to pay support. Support usually lasts until the child reaches age 18 but may be extended under some circumstances.
How is Child Support Determined?
Your child support payments are based on the gross and adjusted gross income of both parents and the number of children. Gross income includes income from whatever source. If such funds would have been available had you lived together, then it is included. This is also referred to as the Income Shares Model. Adjusted gross income excludes funds such as food stamps or income from another spouse.
The estimated income from the Income Shares Model is divided on a proportional basis and on the number of children you have with the other parent. This figure is then divided proportionally on your ability to pay and which parent is the primary custodian.
Let’s take an example. The custodial parent has gross income of $2000 per month and the non-custodial $3000 for a total of $5000. If the guidelines state they must pay 30% of their income, then the figure is $1500. However, since the custodial parent’s income comprises 40% of the gross income he or she is responsible for 40% of $1500 or $600. Consequently, the non-custodial parent’s child support payment is $900.
The parent who does provide certain expenses such as health insurance and child care will get a credit. These are covered in the worksheets provided to determine the amount of child support.
Parents use any one of 2 worksheets. One is for situations where a parent has the child for less than 127 days of the year or you have split custody of two children. In split custody cases, the court makes two support orders, though only one parent will actually end up paying the other. The parent who pays the higher amount of child support will make a payment that is offset by the other parent’s support obligation.
If each parent has shared custody of more than 127 days per year, then a different worksheet is used.
Deviation from the Guidelines
You can ask the court to deviate upwards or downwards based on certain factors:
Special needs of the child
Long distance visitation costs
Educational costs of the child or the parent
The child lives with someone else
A parent pays support for another child
The family has more than 6 children
The support payment leaves the paying parent below the federal poverty line
After a child support order has been in effect for 36-months, you may request a modification so long as there has been a substantial change in circumstances. This includes loss of a job, incarceration, incapacitation, a promotion or a change in physical custody.
Always seek legal assistance if you need to determine your right to or obligation to pay child support or if circumstances dictate that an estimated amount should be different or an existing order modified.
If you have a question about your child support or modification, give us a call. At Wolfe, White & Associates we know the law and how to get the best result for you. Call us at 304-245-9097 for a free consultation.
J. Christopher White