Determining The Amount Of Child Support When a couple divorces, one parent may be liable for support payments to the other parent for the care of the couple’s children. Child support can also arise when an unmarried couple has a child and paternity is established. In both cases, each parent will likely want to know who is receiving the support and how much is owed. Below is an overview of how the court will make these determinations.
Which Parent Will Receive The Support Payments? The first step in child support is determining which parent should receive the support. This will generally be the parent that makes less money and/or has the child more often. The goal behind child support is to ensure that the child is provided for, including being equally provided for when with either parent. This is accomplished using a set formula that is outlined by the Kansas Child Support Worksheet. This form uses basic information about the parents, child, and custody arrangement to arrive at a presumed child support amount. Thus, to truly figure out which parent will be providing support, the form must be completed and the custody arrangement must be decided.
What Factors Go Into Computing A Presumed Child Support Amount? Kansas law looks to several factors in determining a presumed child support amount using the Kansas Child Support Worksheet. First, the income of each parent must be considered. These incomes, after subtracting or adding any other support obligations each parent has, are then combined together. This is done so the court can determine how much of the total, shared income each parent provides. For example, if Parent 1 earns $4,000 a month and Parent 2 earns $6,000 each month, the combined income would be $10,000, with Parent 1 providing 40% of that income and Parent 2 providing 60%. After determining the total, shared income and percentage provided by each parent, the first step is completed.
Next, the number of children in each statutory age group is determined. Kansas divides minor children into three groups: five-years-old and younger, six- to eleven-year-olds, and twelve- to eighteen-year-olds. These groups require different amounts of presumed support, with the older children requiring more support. This is because older children generally require greater costs in terms of food, clothing, education, and other necessary expenses. Using the total income of both parents and the number of children in each age group, the form will produce a presumed amount of support needed for each child.
The form will then take into consideration costs that are paid by each parent and are not easily divided. Common examples include health and dental insurance premiums, as well as child care expenses related to that parent’s work schedule. The parent that pays these expenses will basically receive a credit towards child support in the form of a reduced obligation to pay or an increase in the amount to be received. Finally, any final adjustments will be made. The most common of these is an adjustment based upon the amount of time each parent has physical custody of the children. The more a parent has the child, the more of the child support obligation they will bear, meaning the more financial support the other parent is likely to owe. Other considerations here are costs of “long-distance parenting,” such as plane tickets or gas needed to travel to the child, as well as the overall financial condition of each parent. If one parent is struggling, while the other is very financially secure, the form will adjust to prevent placing an impossible burden on the less secure parent. After inputting all this information, the form will produce a presumed child support amount that each parent owes. The parent with the greater obligation will be required to pay the difference in these two amounts.
Can The Court Ever Order A Different Amount Of Child Support?The child support obligations arrived at using the Kansas Child Support Worksheet are known as “presumed child support amounts” for a reason: the court can choose to deviate from the amount in appropriate circumstances. In re Cox, the Kansas Court of Appeals noted that the child support guidelines will almost always be followed, but in exceptional circumstances the trial court can deviate from those guidelines. However, the judge must make a written record of exactly why the guidelines should not be followed before deviating from them; failure to do so will result in the deviations being reversed on review. Exactly what circumstances are appropriate is difficult to say. Even when the form addresses certain factors, the trial judge may grant more or less credit based on extreme circumstances. For example, in re Marriage of Lewallen, a farmer’s property depreciated greatly after a major storm. Though the form already accounts for depreciation, the court heightened the effect of this factor to further reduce the farmer’s support obligation. This was held to be proper because of the extreme circumstances that that storm has produced and the nature of the business the farmer was engaged in.
It is also important to remember that child support amounts can be modified after the initial order is entered. Common examples of when a child support modification may be requested is change in employment or when the children have entered different age groups. These modifications can be accomplished by petitioning the court to review the order, along with the changed circumstances that support modifying the award. It is quite rare that a child support award goes unmodified for the duration of the child’s youth; instead, modifications are very common and will likely occur in most cases.
Determining child support in Kansas is a strange mixture of a mathematic formula and individualized considerations. Experienced counsel can help to predict when a court may be willing to deviate from the presumed amount produced by the Kansas Child Support Worksheet. Ensuring that the child support amount arrived at is fair and reasonable can ensure the quality of life for both parents and children moving forward. If you need the help of an experienced divorce and family law attorney in Johnson County, Kansas feel free to contact our office.