How does the court determine child support?
Courts use a statewide formula to determine child support. It is based upon the incomes of the parties, the time-sharing schedule in days per year, costs of supporting other children not common to the relationship as well as other out-of-pocket costs such as the cost of health insurance for the child and child care. In looking at parenting time, the guidelines specifically define quarter day, half day and full day in determining the parenting time adjustment. Generally the out-of-pocket cost of health insurance as well as the child care costs are straightforward concepts without too much chance of ambiguity. The factor that generally creates the most litigation is the issue of income. The child support guidelines, which are found as an appendix to the Child Support Statute spend 14 lines defining income. If a parent is salaried or hourly and working 40 hours a week at full income capacity then the determination of income is straightforward. In the event the party is self-employed, underemployed, or his or her income varies substantially from year to year, then the analysis is much more difficult. If the court makes a finding that a parent is unemployed or working below earning capacity without good reason, the court may impute what it considers to be the reasonable income to that parent. Evidence to prove this would include evidence of prior income before the preceding, personnel records or anything that would tend to prove the party is intentionally attempting to depress his or her income in order to avoid paying an appropriate amount for child support. In cases involving self-employed parties, sometimes the analysis is more difficult. Generally, the courts take the position that gross receipts are provisionally viewed as income. It is the burden of the self-employed party to prove reasonable and necessary business expenses as an offset against gross receipts. While tax returns may be an appropriate place to start, people aren’t always as honest as they should be in such reporting. Often it is necessary to look beyond tax returns in determining true income and as a result appropriate child support. In larger cases, it may require the work of skilled forensic accountants to accurately determine income. However, not everyone has the money to pay for such resources. In that case, it is often the job of the attorney to look carefully at the financial documents, accurately determine income and then persuade the court as to the accuracy of the determination. This requires an attorney who has experience examining such financial records and presenting an organized and convincing presentation to ensure that the other party pays his or her fair share of child support.
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