November 10, 1999
CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINE CALCULATION
By: Lawrence K. Furbish, Assistant Director
You asked for a description of how the Child Support Guidelines are used to calculate the amount of support due, and if the court can take into account child support that the person owing support (obligor) would have paid if an order had been in effect previously.
The guidelines provide a worksheet for use by attorneys, the courts, and the Department of Social Services Bureau of Child Support Enforcement in establishing the amount of support due. Using the form, the net incomes of the custodial and non-custodial parent are calculated and used in conjunction with a schedule (chart) to establish the basic child support obligation. Various adjustments are made to account for health insurance, unreimbursed medical expenses, childcare contributions, and support arrearages, if there are any. This calculation results in a presumptive child support amount. The judge or family support magistrate establishing the support order can deviate from the presumptive amount based on criteria listed in the guidelines, but the reasons for the deviation must be included in the order.
The statutes specifically allow a judge or family support magistrate to order payment of support due because of failure to furnish it before the order. The amount of support must be based on the obligor's ability to pay during the prior time period. It is done as an arrearage order and is usually based on a percentage of the original order.
A copy of the worksheet from the current Child Support and Arrearage Guidelines (§§46b-215a-1 through 5a) is attached. The directions for using it and calculating the support amount are in § 46b-215a-2a of the guidelines. First the net weekly income of the non-custodial parent must be calculated. This is done by deducting from gross income such things as state and federal taxes, social security, medical insurance (for other than the child), mandatory union dues, and court ordered alimony or other child support awards.
The resulting net weekly income is compared to the figures in the Schedule of Basis Child Support Obligations, the first page of which is attached. This schedule is part of the guidelines, and it is in the form of a chart with weekly income figures forming one axis and the number of children forming the other. It shows both a percentage and a support amount for different levels of income and numbers of children. If the non-custodial parent's weekly income figure falls within the shaded area, they are considered a low-income obligor. For the lowest of the low-income obligors (those where the support amounts are in dark print) the amount in the schedule becomes their basic child support obligation. For higher low-income obligors (those whose figures are in white italics) the amount becomes their basic support obligation if the custodial parent has no income, otherwise their support amount is computed in a manner similar to those for all other obligors.
If the non-custodial parent's net income falls in an unshaded portion of the schedule, the next step is to calculate the net income of the custodial parent. This is done using the same procedure as for the non-custodial parent. Next, the two net income figures are added together giving a combined net weekly income, which is then compared to the schedule to determine the combined basic child support obligation of both parents.
An adjustment is made for the health insurance premiums paid by each parent, and then each parent's share of the support obligation is calculated. This is done by multiplying each parent's share of combined net weekly income by the total support obligation. Thus each parent's proportional share of the support obligation depends on their proportional share of their combined net income.
Next, adjustments are made in each parent's share of the support obligation to reflect the payment of health insurance premiums and social security benefits. This results in a presumptive support amount that becomes the final child support order, unless the judge or family support magistrate elects to deviate from it based on one or more of the criteria in the law. Deviation criteria listed in the guidelines include (1) other financial resources available to the parent, (2) extraordinary expenses for care and maintenance of the child, (3) extraordinary parental expenses, (4) needs of a parent's other dependents, (5) coordination of total family expenses, and (6) special circumstances.
SUPPORT NOT PREVIOUSLY PAID
CGS § 46b-215(a) authorizes a judge or family support magistrate to "determine, order and enforce payment of any support due because of neglect or refusal to furnish support prior to the action." In making such a determination, the support order for periods before the action must be based on the obligor's ability to pay during that time. According to Donald Longley of the Attorney General's Office, there are procedures for the judge or magistrate to follow if the obligor's ability to provide support during the prior period is not readily apparent.
When a judge or magistrate orders such support, it is done as a separate arrearage order rather than folded into the original order. Arrearage orders are for past due and unpaid support and usually are set as a percentage of the original order. For example, Longley states a $100 per week original support order would often in cases such as these lead to a $20 arrearage order. Original orders take precedence over arrearage orders in the collection process if the obligor falls short of providing all of the ordered support.