Child Support Lawyer
In many cases where married couples with minor children separate or divorce, there may be an issue regarding child support, which is simply payments made to the custodial parent by the noncustodial parent. All parents have an obligation to contribute to the support of their children and the amount they have to pay are largely determined by rules of the court, though courts are given discretion to deviate from the guidelines. These guidelines take into account the income of both of the parents, the number of children and the custody arrangement. These same element apply to couples who have not married but who have children of their relationship.
Regarding child support, the noncustodial parent who is making the payments cannot take a tax deduction but the recipient parent does not need to claim the support as income for income tax purposes. You do have to be careful in making sure the divorce order or order for support designates the payment as child support and does not label it as family support, unallocated support or lump it in with spousal support or it may be deemed taxable income.
Duration of Support Payments
Child support obligations last as long as the child is under the age of 18, is between 18 and 21 and financially dependent on the parent or until the age of 23 if the child is enrolled in college or some other educational course. If the minor child is emancipated, then child support ends.
Also, your obligations cannot be paused or put on hold if you become ill or unemployed or if you become financially distressed without a court order. Under these circumstances you must file a complaint for modification with the court requesting that your child support payments be terminated or suspended.
A court will look at the income sources of the paying parent. Income is from whatever source derived and includes salaries, wages, overtime and tips, bonuses and commissions certain insurance payments, rental payments, cash awards, veteran’s benefits, unemployment compensation, insurance benefits, royalties, severance pay, social security, and any other source. Income or benefits from a public assistance program such as SNAP (food stamps) and SSI is not considered income.
A court will also look at undisclosed or unreported income, or that which is undocumented, and may adjust the payments upward. If the paying parent is not working, the court will examine the individual’s ability to work taking into account that person’s past employment history, education and training and the availability of work in the industry where that person has worked.
The guidelines are designed to be calculated up to a maximum combined income of $250,000. If the parents’ income exceeds this amount, the court has the discretion to increase the support obligation. If your income is less than $150 per month, you may be ordered to pay the minimum support amount of $80 per month, though the court retains the discretion to order that it be lower or higher depending on the individual circumstances of the parties.
Health insurance and the cost of education must be accounted for and the court may also order one party to pay for extracurricular activities provided these activities are in the best interests of the children.
The Court Can Deviate From the Guidelines
There are circumstances when the calculated amount from the guidelines may be unfair or unreasonable. Such circumstances may include:
- The child has special needs
- The child has extraordinary medical or health insurance expenses
- A parent has extraordinary medical or health insurance expenses
- One parent is incarcerated
- The parents are agreeable to a different amount
- A gross disparity in the income of the parents
- Shared physical custody between the parents
If the noncustodial parent is spending less than one-third of the time in parenting, then the court can adjust the support upwards.
How Can a Parent Seek Modification of the Support Order?
A parent cannot seek to modify a court order until more than three years has passed after the existing order was issued. The court may also modify the order if the following is demonstrated:
- There has been a material change in circumstances that affects the obligor’s ability to make the current payments. This may include loss of job, sickness, incapacity or even the birth of another child.
- The health insurance that was in effect is no longer valid or applicable or has drastically increased in cost.
- There is a gross inconsistency between what the parents pay and what the guidelines state.
There is a hearing if there is no agreement regarding the modification but the court may rule solely on the documents presented if the parents file a joint petition of modification of child support.
If you are seeking child support or wish to modify an existing child support order, call The Law Offices of Michael F. Mimno to discuss the steps to take and if there have been material changes in your life, that of the custodial parent or of the child that could result in a modification of an existing order.