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Tag: child support calculation

How much does a parent have to pay in child support? What is the legally set amount?

Some people believe that child support is the same for all parents. They believe that every parent who is ordered to pay child support pays the same amount of money per child. This is not how child support is calculated in most jurisdictions, and Utah is no exception.

Child support is based upon several factors before it is calculated and ordered:

  • the incomes of both parents;
  • the number of children there are; and
  • the number of overnights that each parent spends with the child or children on an annual basis

Some other factors can affect child support calculations, such as whether a child has special needs, but generally, child support is a factor of parent income and the number of overnights the children spend with each parent. Allow me to explain with this hypothetical example:

John and Jane are the parents of three minor children.

John’s gross monthly income (we use gross monthly income as the income figures for calculating the monthly base child support obligation) is $5,400 per month, and Jane’s monthly gross income is $2,600 per month.

To calculate child support in various custody situations, we are going to utilize the Utah State Office of Recovery Services Child Support Calculator.

If the children spend an equal number of overnights with both parents on an annual basis, then child support looks like this because it is calculated this way under Utah Code § 30-3-35.2[1]:

(2)

(d) Child support for the equal parent-time schedule shall be consistent with Section 78B-12-208.

(e)

(i) A court shall determine which parent receives 182 overnights and which parent receives 183 overnights for parent-time.

(ii) For the purpose of calculating child support under Section 78B-12-208, the amount of time to be spent with the parent who has the lower gross monthly income is considered 183 overnights, regardless of whether the parent receives 182 overnights or 183 overnights under Subsection (2)(e)(i).

Joint Custody P1 – 183 P2 – 182
Joint Custody P1 – 182 P2 – 183

If one parent has the children in his or her custody more or less than on an equal time basis, the calculation looks something like this:

  • I will show what a calculation based upon an unequal physical custody award looks like by calculating child support based upon John spending less than 111 overnights with his children annually)
  • In such a situation, we will treat John as the “noncustodial” parent. “Noncustodial parent” does not mean that John has lost all of his parental rights, but just that he does not have primary physical custody of the children (i.e., that the children are in his care and custody less than 111 overnights annually). Based upon John’s spending less than 111 overnights with the children, the Child Support worksheet would look like this, and would result in John’s child support obligation being as follows:
Sole Custody

And there is yet another way to calculate child support in a “split custody” situation. That’s a situation where, when there are multiple children, some live primarily with one parent and some live primarily with the other (in other words, they don’t spend time all together with one parent at a time).

So, let’s assume in this scenario that two of the children live with John as the custodial parent, and one of the children lives with Jane has the custodial parent of that one child. This is how the child support calculation worksheet would look and what the resulting child support obligations from each parent to the other would be:

Split Custody

As you can see, on a split custody basis, even though each parent has custody of one or more children, it ultimately comes down to one parent’s obligation being offset by what the other parent’s obligation is. This is why John pays $13 to Jane each month, even though Jane’s obligation to John is $355.94 per month because his obligation to Jane is $369.08 per month.

So John’s obligation to Jane of $369.08 per month is reduced by Jane’s $355.94 monthly obligation to John, resulting in a difference of $13.

 

Now, the examples I provided above are not the only ways child custody can be awarded and thus not the only ways that child support can be calculated and awarded, but these examples are the most common that you’ll see. So, now you get an idea of what happens and what the child support calculations and obligations are in these situations.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277


[1] This is not truly an equal custody award because one parent is awarded 183 overnights with the children annually. It does not have to be this way, and indeed, I submit it should not be this way. If you are a parent who wants a true equal custody award made, then calculate custody and child support this way:

  • Agree that each parent is awarded 182.5 overnights with the children annually and note that this will result in one parent naturally having the children in his/her care and custody 183 overnights in one year, then 182 overnights in the next year due to the fact that a year consists of (with the exception of leap years, which occur so rarely as to be statistically insignificant) an odd number of days, i.e., 365.
  • Calculate what child support would be for the obligor parent (“obligor” means the one who pays) if a parent had the children in his/her care and custody 183 overnights annually and 182 overnights annually, and then average those two child support obligations to get what the child support obligation is on a 182.5 overnights annually basis.
  • So, in John and Jane Doe’s hypothetical case, that would mean that John’s monthly base child support payment obligation on a 182.5 perfectly equal custody basis would be $287 per month ($272 + #302 = $574. $574 ÷ 2 = $287).
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My Ex-wife Is Married. Should Her and Her New Husband’s Total Household Income Be Used When Determining Child Support?

I really don’t understand why this question gets asked, and it is asked frequently. Actually, that’s not true. I do know why.

The people who usually ask this question are child support obligors (payors) who are suffering under the burden of their child support obligation. They resent having to pay so much child support, or even any child support of all. Frankly, I sympathize. Often, child support is calculated incorrectly, based upon an income that the child support obligor does not earn and never did earn. Sometimes child support is based upon the obligee falsely reporting his/her income is much lower than it really is. Other times, child support is based upon an award of child custody that is unfair to parent and child alike.

And so there are many discouraged child support obligors who become obsessed with finding a way to pay less or no child support. This obsession clouds their judgment. They begin to see “reasons” for reducing or eliminating the child support obligations that make no sense. One of these so-called reasons (that isn’t really a reason) is when the child support obligee remarries. The thinking goes in the minds of these hapless child support obligors that the remarried parent now has a new income source in the form of the income of the new spouse’s income. The problem with this argument is that while the parent may have a new spouse, that new spouse is a stepparent to the child, not that child’s parent. The child still has only two parents who are financially responsible for that child’s support. Stepparents do not have an obligation to support their stepchildren in Utah. And that is why parents who remarry do not have their spouses’ incomes included in their own incomes for child support calculation purposes in Utah.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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My question to Utah Office of Recovery Services (ORS):

Good morning, 

I am a divorce and child custody lawyer. I have a question that all of my clients ask me that I don’t have the answer to: 

“Why does ORS and/or the court need my child’s Social Security Number in a child support case? I can see why they would need the Social Security Numbers for both parents, but why for the kids?” 

It’s a good question. Do you know the answer why (other than “it’s in the rules”), and if you don’t, can you point me in the direction of who knows the answer? 

We are unable to answer this question on behalf of the courts, but can provide you some of the reasons why ORS needs a child’s Social Security Number.  

When ORS establishes legal paternity for a child, we are required to report the paternity establishment to vital records, and this process requires the child’s Social Security Number to be sent with the child’s other information (name, date of birth, etc.).  On the enforcement side, ORS is required to enforce medical insurance in conjunction with enforcing child support.  As part of this process we send the parent’s employer the National Medical Support Notice ordering the child to be enrolled in insurance. The form includes the child’s Social Security Number, because it is required to enroll the child in insurance. This is a federal form all child support agencies are required to use.   

Thank you for your time and email. 

Customer Service 

Office of Recovery Services 

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277  

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What should the child support award be if my ex makes $1,200 per week?

Should I be receiving more than $300 a month in child support if my ex-husband makes $1,200 per week? 

Each jurisdiction has different child support laws and rules, but I can answer this question in the context of Utah law, because I practice divorce and family law in that state: 

Your question is how do I know if I am receiving the correct amount of child support from the child support obligor parent. “Obligor” means the person who is obligated to do something, in this case a child support to the child support recipient, who is also known as the child support “obligee”. 

In the past, Utah’s law left how child support was calculated to what the parties and/or the courts felt was appropriate. As you can imagine, however, leaving something so contentious as child support so wide open led to a tremendous amount of child support litigation. In response, the Utah State Legislature created a presumptive statutory formula for calculating child support.  

Now let me walk you through what the statutory guidelines for child support calculation in Utah are, and how they apply. I have provided links to the code sections that I cite at the end of this post.  

Utah Code § 78B-12-210 is entitled “Application of guidelines—Use of ordered child support.” For the average family and their children, the guidelines apply as a rebuttable presumption in establishing or modifying the amount of temporary or permanent child support. That means the amount of the child support award resulting from application of the guidelines, and the use of worksheets consistent with those guidelines, are presumed to be correct and binding upon the parents. This presumption can be rebutted and child support award be lower than what the guidelines provide, but only where the court is convinced that use of the guidelines would be unjust, inappropriate, or not in the best interest of a child in a particular case. Deviating downward from the guidelines rarely occurs.  

Utah Code § 78B-12-205, entitled “Calculation of obligations” provides that, except for parents whose monthly adjusted gross incomes are $1,050 or less, each parent’s child support obligation is established in proportion to their adjusted gross incomes. Utah Code § 78B-12-204 defines “adjusted gross income” is the amount calculated by subtracting from gross income alimony previously ordered and paid and child support previously ordered. The guidelines do not reduce the total child support award by adjusting the gross incomes of the parents for alimony ordered in the pending proceeding. In establishing alimony, the guidelines do not provide for your alimony obligation to be deducted from your gross income. So if you are not paying alimony or child support to a previous spouse (not your current spouse) or to children in addition to the ones who are the subject of your current child support case, your child support obligation will be calculated based upon your gross monthly income. Gross monthly income means before tax income.  

Some people get angry when they hear that child support is based upon gross before tax income. Remember, the statutory guidelines don’t treat you as though you don’t pay taxes. The child support calculation formula takes the fact that you have to pay taxes into account.  

So if your ex-husband makes $1,200 per week, if that’s a gross amount he is paid, then that means he earns $5,200 per month. Child support is based upon both what your husband earns and what you earn. There is a child support calculator provided by the State of Utah free of charge. I’ve included a link to that calculator at the end of this post too. Here is how filling out the child support worksheet works: 

You need to know how much both your ex-husband’s and your adjusted gross monthly incomes are. You need to know how many minor children will be included in the child support calculation, and you need to know how many overnights the minor children spend with each parent.  

So assume for our purposes that your ex-husband’s gross monthly income is $1,257 per month. $1,257 is equal to earning minimum wage on a full-time, 40-hour per week basis, so it would be almost impossible to calculate child support on anything less than $1,257 per month. We would also plug your gross monthly income into the calculator. So let’s use $1,257 for you too. If you are not disabled and can work full-time, even if you are unemployed currently, you cannot have your income be less than $1,257 per month because it’s assumed that anyone can earn minimum wage.  

Let’s also assume that you have three minor children and that you have them in your custody 220 overnights annually and your ex-husband has than 145 overnights annually.  

Now we have all the information we need to fill out the calculator, so will fill it in now in the appropriate blanks, then will click the “Continue” button to generate the child support worksheet. As you can see, your ex-husband’s child support obligation for three minor children would be $260 per month. As you can see, the child support calculator is pretty clear and straightforward, and now you know the basics of how child support is calculated, you can figure out for yourself what child or will be in your case by following the instructions on the child support worksheet calculator. You can even calculate different scenarios to find out what child support would be depending upon differences in income and in number of overnights each parent spends with the children on an annual basis. 

Office of Recovery Services Child Support Calculator  - (utah.gov) 

Utah Code Part 78B-12-2 

Utah Code Part 78B-12-3  

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277  

https://www.quora.com/Should-I-be-receiving-more-than-300-a-month-in-child-support-if-my-ex-husband-makes-1200-per-week/answer/Eric-Johnson-311  

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What income is counted when calculating child support?

What income is counted when calculating child support?

This is a great question. In the jurisdiction where I practice family law (Utah), the Utah Code tells you exactly what kind of parental income a court considers in determining child support:

78B-12-207.  Obligation — Adjusted gross income used.

Adjusted gross income shall be used in calculating each parent’s share of the base combined child support obligation. Only income of the natural or adoptive parents of the child may be used to determine the award under these guidelines.

78B-12-204.  Adjusted gross income.

(1)          As used in this chapter, “adjusted gross income” is the amount calculated by subtracting from gross income alimony previously ordered and paid and child support previously ordered.

(2)          The guidelines do not reduce the total child support award by adjusting the gross incomes of the parents for alimony ordered in the pending proceeding. In establishing alimony, the court shall consider that in determining the child support, the guidelines do not provide a deduction from gross income for alimony.

78B-12-203.  Determination of gross income — Imputed income.

(1)          As used in the guidelines, “gross income” includes prospective income from any source, including earned and nonearned income sources which may include salaries, wages, commissions, royalties, bonuses, rents, gifts from anyone, prizes, dividends, severance pay, pensions, interest, trust income, alimony from previous marriages, annuities, capital gains, Social Security benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, unemployment compensation, income replacement disability insurance benefits, and payments from “nonmeans-tested” government programs.

(2)          Income from earned income sources is limited to the equivalent of one full-time 40-hour job. If and only if during the time before the original support order, the parent normally and consistently worked more than 40 hours at the parent’s job, the court may consider this extra time as a pattern in calculating the parent’s ability to provide child support.

(3)          Notwithstanding Subsection (1), specifically excluded from gross income are:

(a)          cash assistance provided under Title 35A, Chapter 3, Part 3, Family Employment Program;

(b)          benefits received under a housing subsidy program, the Job Training Partnership Act, Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability Insurance, Medicaid, SNAP benefits, or General Assistance; and

(c)           other similar means-tested welfare benefits received by a parent.

(4)

(a)          Gross income from self-employment or operation of a business shall be calculated by subtracting necessary expenses required for self-employment or business operation from gross receipts. The income and expenses from self-employment or operation of a business shall be reviewed to determine an appropriate level of gross income available to the parent to satisfy a child support award. Only those expenses necessary to allow the business to operate at a reasonable level may be deducted from gross receipts.

(b)          Gross income determined under this Subsection (4) may differ from the amount of business income determined for tax purposes.

(5)

(a)          When possible, gross income should first be computed on an annual basis and then recalculated to determine the average gross monthly income.

(b)          Each parent shall provide verification of current income. Each parent shall provide year-to-date pay stubs or employer statements and complete copies of tax returns from at least the most recent year unless the court finds the verification is not reasonably available. Verification of income from records maintained by the Department of Workforce Services may be substituted for pay stubs, employer statements, and income tax returns.

(c)           Historical and current earnings shall be used to determine whether an underemployment or overemployment situation exists.

(6)          Incarceration of at least six months may not be treated as voluntary unemployment by the office in establishing or modifying a support order.

(7)          Gross income includes income imputed to the parent under Subsection (8).

(8)

(a)          Income may not be imputed to a parent unless the parent stipulates to the amount imputed, the parent defaults, or, in contested cases, a hearing is held and the judge in a judicial proceeding or the presiding officer in an administrative proceeding enters findings of fact as to the evidentiary basis for the imputation.

(b)          If income is imputed to a parent, the income shall be based upon employment potential and probable earnings considering, to the extent known:

(i)            employment opportunities;

(ii)           work history;

(iii)          occupation qualifications;

(iv)         educational attainment;

(v)          literacy;

(vi)         age;

(vii)        health;

(viii)       criminal record;

(ix)         other employment barriers and background factors; and

(x)          prevailing earnings and job availability for persons of similar backgrounds in the community.

(c)           If a parent has no recent work history or a parent’s occupation is unknown, that parent may be imputed an income at the federal minimum wage for a 40-hour work week. To impute a greater or lesser income, the judge in a judicial proceeding or the presiding officer in an administrative proceeding shall enter specific findings of fact as to the evidentiary basis for the imputation.

(d)          Income may not be imputed if any of the following conditions exist and the condition is not of a temporary nature:

(i)            the reasonable costs of child care for the parents’ minor children approach or equal the amount of income the custodial parent can earn;

(ii)           a parent is physically or mentally unable to earn minimum wage;

(iii)          a parent is engaged in career or occupational training to establish basic job skills; or

(iv)         unusual emotional or physical needs of a child require the custodial parent’s presence in the home.

(9)

(a)          Gross income may not include the earnings of a minor child who is the subject of a child support award nor benefits to a minor child in the child’s own right such as Supplemental Security Income.

(b)          Social security benefits received by a child due to the earnings of a parent shall be credited as child support to the parent upon whose earning record it is based, by crediting the amount against the potential obligation of that parent. Other unearned income of a child may be considered as income to a parent depending upon the circumstances of each case.

78B-12-205.  Calculation of obligations.

(1)          Each parent’s child support obligation shall be established in proportion to their adjusted gross incomes, unless the low income table is applicable. Except during periods of court-ordered parent-time as set forth in Section 78B-12-216, the parents are obligated to pay their proportionate shares of the base combined child support obligation. If physical custody of the child changes from that assumed in the original order, modification of the order is not necessary, even if only one parent is specifically ordered to pay in the order.

(2)          Except in cases of joint physical custody and split custody as defined in Section 78B-12-102 and in cases where the obligor’s adjusted gross income is $1,050 or less monthly, the base child support award shall be determined as follows:

(a)          combine the adjusted gross incomes of the parents and determine the base combined child support obligation using the base combined child support obligation table; and

(b)          calculate each parent’s proportionate share of the base combined child support obligation by multiplying the combined child support obligation by each parent’s percentage of combined adjusted gross income.

(3)          In the case of an incapacitated adult child, any amount that the incapacitated adult child can contribute to the incapacitated adult child’s support may be considered in the determination of child support and may be used to justify a reduction in the amount of support ordered, except that in the case of orders involving multiple children, the reduction shall not be greater than the effect of reducing the total number of children by one in the child support table calculation.

(4)          In cases where the monthly adjusted gross income of either parent is between $650 and $1,050, the base child support award shall be the lesser of the amount calculated in accordance with Subsection (2) and the amount calculated using the low income table. If the income and number of children is found in an area of the low income table in which no amount is shown, the base combined child support obligation table is to be used.

(5)          The base combined child support obligation table provides combined child support obligations for up to six children. For more than six children, additional amounts may be added to the base child support obligation shown. Unless rebutted by Subsection 78B-12-210(3), the amount ordered may not be less than the amount which would be ordered for up to six children.

(6)          If the monthly adjusted gross income of either parent is $649 or less, the tribunal shall determine the amount of the child support obligation on a case-by-case basis, but the base child support award may not be less than $30.

(7)          The amount shown on the table is the support amount for the total number of children, not an amount per child.

(8)          For all worksheets, income and support award figures shall be rounded to the nearest dollar.

78B-12-210.  Application of guidelines — Use of ordered child support.

(1)          The guidelines in this chapter apply to any judicial or administrative order establishing or modifying an award of child support entered on or after July 1, 1989.

(2)

(a)          The guidelines shall be applied as a rebuttable presumption in establishing or modifying the amount of temporary or permanent child support.

(b)          The rebuttable presumption means the provisions and considerations required by the guidelines, the award amounts resulting from the application of the guidelines, and the use of worksheets consistent with these guidelines are presumed to be correct, unless rebutted under the provisions of this section.

(3)          A written finding or specific finding on the record supporting the conclusion that complying with a provision of the guidelines or ordering an award amount resulting from use of the guidelines would be unjust, inappropriate, or not in the best interest of a child in a particular case is sufficient to rebut the presumption in that case. If an order rebuts the presumption through findings, it is considered a deviated order.

(4)          The following shall be considered deviations from the guidelines, if:

(a)          the order includes a written finding that it is a deviation from the guidelines;

(b)          the guidelines worksheet has:

(i)            the box checked for a deviation; and

(ii)           an explanation as to the reason; or

(c)           the deviation is made because there were more children than provided for in the guidelines table.

(5)          If the amount in the order and the amount on the guidelines worksheet differ by $10 or more:

(a)          the order is considered deviated; and

(b)          the incomes listed on the worksheet may not be used in adjusting support for emancipation.

(6)

(a)          Natural or adoptive children of either parent who live in the home of that parent and are not children in common to both parties may at the option of either party be taken into account under the guidelines in setting a child support award, as provided in Subsection (7).

(b)          Additional worksheets shall be prepared that compute the base child support award of the respective parents for the additional children. The base child support award shall then be subtracted from the appropriate parent’s income before determining the award in the instant case.

(7)          In a proceeding to adjust or modify an existing award, consideration of natural or adoptive children born after entry of the order and who are not in common to both parties may be applied to mitigate an increase in the award but may not be applied:

(a)          for the benefit of the obligee if the credit would increase the support obligation of the obligor from the most recent order; or

(b)          for the benefit of the obligor if the amount of support received by the obligee would be decreased from the most recent order.

(8)

(a)          If a child support order has not been issued or modified within the previous three years, a parent, legal guardian, or the office may move the court to adjust the amount of a child support order.

(b)          Upon receiving a motion under Subsection (8)(a), the court shall, taking into account the best interests of the child:

(i)            determine whether there is a difference between the payor’s ordered support amount and the payor’s support amount that would be required under the guidelines; and

(ii)           if there is a difference as described in Subsection (8)(b)(i), adjust the payor’s ordered support amount to the payor’s support amount provided in the guidelines if:

(A)          the difference is 10% or more;

(B)          the difference is not of a temporary nature; and

(C)          the order adjusting the payor’s ordered support amount does not deviate from the guidelines.

(c)           A showing of a substantial change in circumstances is not necessary for an adjustment under this Subsection (8).

(9)

(a)          A parent, legal guardian, or the office may at any time petition the court to adjust the amount of a child support order if there has been a substantial change in circumstances. A change in the base combined child support obligation table set forth in Section 78B-12-301 is not a substantial change in circumstances for the purposes of this Subsection (9).

(b)          For purposes of this Subsection (9), a substantial change in circumstances may include:

(i)            material changes in custody;

(ii)           material changes in the relative wealth or assets of the parties;

(iii)          material changes of 30% or more in the income of a parent;

(iv)         material changes in the employment potential and ability of a parent to earn;

(v)          material changes in the medical needs of the child; or

(vi)         material changes in the legal responsibilities of either parent for the support of others.

(c)           Upon receiving a petition under Subsection (9)(a), the court shall, taking into account the best interests of the child:

(i)            determine whether a substantial change has occurred;

(ii)           if a substantial change has occurred, determine whether the change results in a difference of 15% or more between the payor’s ordered support amount and the payor’s support amount that would be required under the guidelines; and

(iii)          adjust the payor’s ordered support amount to that which is provided for in the guidelines if:

(A)          there is a difference of 15% or more; and

(B)          the difference is not of a temporary nature.

(10)        Notice of the opportunity to adjust a support order under Subsections (8) and (9) shall be included in each child support order.

————-

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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