The Child Support Guidelines provide guidance to the Court, practitioners, and parents on the calculation of child support obligations. It is important that any non-married parent with a minor child is familiar with the Child Support Guidelines. The Guidelines are reviewed and updated on a regular basis, with the most recent amendment becoming effective January 1, 2020.
The amended guidelines clarify that a Child Support Obligation Worksheet is required in each case to assist judges, practitioners and parents in calculating the presumptive amount of child support under the Guidelines. Historically, parents were able to reach an agreement on the payment of child support and the agreements would be approved by the Court without the inclusion of a Child Support Obligation Worksheet. The Guidelines now clarify that a Child Support Obligation Worksheet is required, even if the parents agree to deviate from the calculated amount.
The Guidelines further clarify the use of potential income when a parent is unemployed or underemployed. The Guidelines expand the consideration of potential income to include the consideration of a parent’s educational attainment, literacy, age, health, criminal record, or other employment barriers. This is a more wholistic consideration of a parent’s ability to earn income. Further, the use of a parent’s income at the federal minimum wage level may only occur if the resulting child support amount is set in such a manner that the obligor is not denied a means of self-support at a subsistence level. Additionally, the Court may not consider the incarceration of a parent as voluntary unemployment and his or her potential income should not be assessed for the establishment or modification of child support.
The Guidelines provide extensive clarification on the calculation of credit for prior born children. In cases where there is a court ordered child support for prior born children, it is the burden of the party seeking the credit to establish the actual existence of the Order and the amount of the child support order. Further, a credit shall not be given for any portion of the ordered child support addressing arrearages. The Guidelines explain in detail how to calculate child support for a prior born child when no court order exists. The Guidelines address how to calculate child support if the income for both parents is known, if the income of one of the parents is unknown, and if there is more than one prior born child. If there is more than one prior born child with different non-custodial parents, the legal duty shall be calculated as if the children have the same noncustodial parents, rather than the total of two or more separate and distinct legal duties. The guidelines provide illustrations on how to calculate the credit for prior born children in these different circumstances.
The guidelines generally require a parent to provide health insurance for their children. A parent bears the burden of demonstrating that health insurance is not available at a reasonable cost. The guidelines now provide that health insurance is not available at a reasonable cost if the out of pocket costs of health insurance exceeds 5% of the parent’s combined gross incomes.