Child support is a major concern when it comes to child custody cases. Both parents should want the best for the children of the relationship. As such, ensuring that the child has sufficient financial support is key. Yet, reasonable parties can often disagree as to what is an appropriate amount of support. If parents can't find a compromise, the courts can set a non-custodial parent's financial obligations using child support guidelines. Find out how this process works and the impact it could have on your family law matter.
A Look at the Standards
In divorce or child custody cases, child support guidelines attempt to provide a uniform process for determining the level of support. The end goal of these guidelines is to maintain consistency across a wide number of different scenarios. This guidance in setting awards also makes the child custody process a lot more efficient. Thus, child support guidelines are relied upon by family courts in practically every jurisdiction.
In Utah, the child support guidelines are explained in sections 78B-12-204 through section 205 of the Utah Code. Utah courts will adhere to these guidelines unless there is sufficient evidence to deviate from the standards.
The guidelines provide certain factors that must be considered when setting an award amount. Some of the relevant factors include:
- The standard of living of both parents.
- Disparities between income and assets of both parents.
- Both the non-custodial and custodial parents' earning capacities.
- The relative ages of all parties involved.
- Whether the "child" is incapacitated or receives other benefits.
- Whether the parents also provide support for other parties.
These are some of the considerations the court uses to decide on a child support amount.
A Look at Income
As you can see, determining the income of each parent is a crucial part of the process. Thus, a question remains regarding how the court determines the correct income amount. The courts use both gross income and adjusted gross income to arrive at a final figure for support. First, the adjusted gross income (from both parents) is added together to arrive at the base combined child support amount. This figure is then compared with the court's child support obligation table. You can see a sample of this chart in section 78B-12-301 of the Utah Code. Next, the court will apportion a percentage of the combined child support amount to each parent based on their adjusted gross incomes.
When a parent is not employed, or does not have consistent income, the court can estimate a fair income amount. This is referred to as imputing income. In essence, the court will look at a parent's potential earning capacity to find out how much money should be generated. This income figure will then be used in the combined adjusted gross income process. Imputed income makes it possible to arrive at a fair child support amount. It prevents parties from avoiding the child support obligation by refusing to work, or otherwise lowering their income. However, there are also exceptions to this rule. For example, the court may not impute income where a parent has a limiting physical or mental disability.
One More Consideration
The information presented here is just a portion of what goes into the typical child support award. It is important to consult with a family law attorney to get the most accurate assessment of your situation. Although child support awards can be modified down the line, it is better to start with an accurate award amount.
To learn more about child support or child custody in Utah, contact Terry Spencer at the Law Office of TR Spencer today.