Child support is the monetary amount awarded by the court that requires a parent to pay for the well-being of a child of which they are a parent or legal guardian. According to Utah law, every parent has a legal obligation to provide support for their underage children regardless of marital status. With a few exceptions, child support is to be provided until the child has reached the legal age of 18 or has completed high school, whichever is later.
Child Support Calculations
The amount granted by the courts is determined by a number of factors, but mainly includes three components:
- Base child support: This component is what is most often connoted in discussion of child support. This is the typically a monetary monthly payment that includes, but is not limited to, basic child welfare needs such as food, clothing, housing, and other daily or monthly expenses.
- Medical care: This component includes medical, dental, and hospital insurance. Utah code requires that both parents pay equal amounts to cover the medical and health needs of a child regardless of income disparity, unless the court orders otherwise. This includes any reasonable and necessary uninsured medical, health or dental expenses incurred by the child.
- Child care expenses: Utah code stipulates that both parents equally share the costs of work related child care expenses.
To determine the amount of support granted to the custodial parent, Utah takes the income of both parents into consideration. This calculation is limited to the equivalent of a single full-time employment, and does not include additional full or part-time employment or overtime income. Overtime income may be considered, though, if it is determined that a parent consistently worked and received overtime prior to the issuance of the child support order. Pensions, Social Security Benefits, Workers’ Compensation, and Disability Insurance Benefits are considered income. Case assistance, Supplement Security Income (SSI), and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are not considered income.
The guidelines used to determine the amount granted by the court are available at each Clerk of the Court office, as well as here: https://www.ors.utah.gov/faq_compute_cs.htm
The court will determine the length of time child support is granted, but child support obligation usually ends if one of the following occurs:
- the child reaches the legal age of 18 or graduates from high school during the child’s normal and expected year of graduation, whichever occurs later;
- the child marries
- the child becomes a member of the armed forces of the United States;
- the child is emancipated by court order;
- the child dies.
The court can extend child support to the age of 21 for circumstances in which the child is disabled or unable to live or function independently.
Changes or adjustments
The court determines the amount granted in child support based on the above guidelines. Understanding the uniqueness of each situation, though, the court may deviate from the guidelines if either parent requests to receive or pay a different amount if they can show adequate cause for doing so. In this situation, the courts’ worksheet and calculator do not apply.
If a child support order has not been issued or modified within three previous consecutive years, a parent may move the court to adjust the amount of a child support order based on the parties’ respective incomes. If there is a substantial change in circumstance, either financial or in child welfare, a parent may request a modification to the child support order. Examples of substantial change in circumstance may include:
- material changes in custody;
- material changes in relative wealth or assets of the parties;
- 30% or more permanent material change in the income of a parent;
- material change in employment earning potential and/or ability;
- material change in the medical needs of a child;
- material change in the legal responsibilities of either parent.
If a 15%+ difference between the payor’s ordered support and the payor’s support amount as determined under guidelines has occurred as a result of a substantial change, the court will adjust the child support order accordingly. This change will be based upon the parties’ respective income and/or financial circumstances. This change may come about by a change or loss of employment.
Typically, the parent that retains primary custody of a child will be granted the child support. In situations of joint custody, child support is usually provided by the parent with the higher income.
In cases where a parent is granted sole custody of a child, it may seem unfair or unjust to provide child support. Nevertheless, non-custodial parents must provide child support regardless of custody as the court seems fit. The court’s responsibility is to rule according to the well-being of the child rather than what may seem fair to the parents. If neither parent has custody of a child in situations where the child is living with a relative or legal guardian, the court will enforce child support obligations for both parents. The court will also grant child support to a custodial parent regardless if the parents were ever married.
For more information on child custody issues and concerns, see (insert link to child custody page here)