Am Jur 2d - Divorce and Separation § 939

IV. Child Custody and Support; Visitation Rights, B. Child Support, 3. Amount of Allowance, b. Matters Affecting Determination, § 939 - Use of child-support guidelines

Child-support guidelines are the basis for establishing and reviewing child-support orders, including cases settled by agreement of the parties, and judges and hearing officers must follow the guidelines.[1] Indeed, trial courts are vested with broad and liberal discretion in fashioning orders concerning the type, duration and amount of support in a marriage dissolution action, applying in each case the guidelines of the general statutes.[2] Child-support guidelines apply not only to the initial determination of child support, but also to modification actions, and must be considered by any court setting child support.[3] Thus, in general, child-support payments should be set according to the child-support guidelines,[4] which are also applicable when a party requests support for an adult child who has a mental or physical condition that prevents the child from earning a supporting wage.[5] Although the child-support guidelines have been held to be just guidelines, and do not accommodate to all circumstances or cases, and the trial courts are to give serious consideration to the child-support guidelines, but they are not to follow them blindly,[6] it has also been held that adherence to the guideline in determining the amount of child support is mandatory,[7] and a failure to follow the guidelines is reversible error.[8] Moreover, although a trial court has broad discretion to tailor a child-support award in light of the circumstances before it, this discretion must be exercised within the methodological framework established by the child-support guidelines.[9]

The child-support guidelines schedule used to determine a parent's child-support obligation is based on the parents' combined net weekly income, rather than gross weekly income.[10] The child-support guidelines presume a division of the support obligation in proportion to each parent's weekly available income, consistent with the duty of either or both parents to support their children based upon the resources of the parents, standard of living had the marriage not dissolved, and the physical or mental condition of the children.[11] Child-support guidelines are premised on a rebuttable presumption that each parent should contribute to the financial support of their child in the same proportion as that parent's income relates to the sum of the parents' incomes, without regard to the amount of time the child spends with each parent.[12]

While statutory guidelines should not be blindly applied in every case, in jurisdictions where guidelines are applicable, they shift the burden of presenting evidence in a child-support hearing to the parent who wishes to shift the noncustodial parent's contribution below or above specified percentages.[13] However, a trial court that is required to use child-support guidelines to compute the amount of support must make specific findings as to how it calculates its award of child support under the applicable child-support guidelines[14] and must include, as part of the record, adequate evidence upon which the court can determine a proper award of child-support payments.[15] Merely alluding to the use of the guidelines is insufficient.[16]

A court must determine both the custodial and noncustodial parent's net monthly income.[17] The income of parents, used to set a child-support award that is consistent with the guidelines may be established by testimony[18] and income tax returns.[19] A worksheet reflecting the actual calculations resulting from the application of the guidelines may be sufficient.[20] Reliance by the trial court on unsigned, unverified worksheets provided by a party in determining income for purposes of child-support guidelines is improper.[21] Failure to state, on the record, the calculations concerning the parties' available income, and calculations for the children's reasonable living expenses constitutes an abuse of discretion.[22]

There is a presumption that the appropriate amount of child support in each case is the amount determined from the child-support guidelines.[23] In theory, the guidelines balance the needs of the children against the legitimate needs and expenses of the payor parent and take into account the reasonable costs of living, including educational expenses, for the dependent children.[24]

The child-support guidelines, which are exclusively tied to income, are not always appropriate where the noncustodial parent has no income but does have sufficient assets from which support can be obtained.[25]

Observation:

When the parties' combined adjusted gross income exceeds the uppermost limit of the child-support schedule, the amount of child support awarded must rationally relate to the reasonable and necessary needs of the child, taking into account the lifestyle to which the child was accustomed and the standard of living the child enjoyed before the divorce, and must reasonably relate to the obligor's ability to pay for those needs.[26] Thus, even if a parent's income exceeds the uppermost level of the child-support schedule,[27] the amount of child support ordered may not exceed the reasonable needs of the child in an amount that appears to punish that parent.[28]

Cases:

When a parent is receiving social security benefits and, as a result, his or her children receive dependent benefits, the total benefits received by or on behalf of that parent are attributed to the parent as income in the child support guideline calculation, and the dependent benefits are then credited toward the parent's obligation, that is, they are a payment of the obligation on behalf of the parent. West's F.S.A. § 61.30(11)(a)(2) . Valladares v. Junco-Valladares, 30 So. 3d 519 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 3d Dist. 2010) .

Trial court failed to include in its final order in divorce proceeding a required finding regarding each of the parties' respective gross monthly income for purposes of child support award, where, although trial court completed its own child support worksheet in which it specifically made independent determinations regarding the parties' respective gross monthly incomes, and despite the fact that the parties were made aware of the exact figures being used by the trial court as representations of their gross monthly incomes, the trial court nevertheless failed to attach its worksheet to the final order or otherwise incorporate the worksheet by reference into the final order in any way. West's Ga.Code Ann. § 19-6-15(c)(2)(C) . Demmons v. Wilson-Demmons, 745 S.E.2d 645 (Ga. 2013) .

The amended provisions of child support guidelines, just as their predecessor child support guidelines, are mandatory and must be considered by a trier of fact setting the amount of child support. Evans v. Evans, 285 Ga. 319, 676 S.E.2d 180 (2009) .

Trial courts must presumptively follow the Michigan Child Support Formula (MCSF) when determining parents' child support obligations. M.C.L.A. § 552.605(2) . Ewald v. Ewald, 292 Mich. App. 706, 810 N.W.2d 396 (2011) .

One who wishes to complain about a child support calculation must have submitted a Form 14 child support worksheet to the trial court. Weber v. Deming, 292 S.W.3d 914 (Mo. Ct. App. W.D. 2009) .

Ex-wife waived challenge to the trial court's calculation of child support; ex-wife failed to submit a Form 14 child support worksheet for periods at issue, and ex-wife herself initially argued to the trial court that amount awarded was the appropriate figure. Weber v. Deming, 292 S.W.3d 914 (Mo. Ct. App. W.D. 2009) .

New Hampshire's child support guidelines shall be applied in all child support cases, including any order modifying a support order. Matter of Hampers, 97 A.3d 1106 (N.H. 2014) .

A mere recitation that the guidelines have been considered in arriving at the amount of a child support obligation is insufficient to show compliance with the guidelines. Bye v. Robinette, 2015 ND 276, 871 N.W.2d 432 (N.D. 2015) .

Court errs as a matter of law when it fails to comply with child support guidelines in determining child support obligation. Wilson v. Wilson, 2014 ND 199, 855 N.W.2d 105 (N.D. 2014) .

A district court errs as a matter of law when it fails to comply with the child support guidelines. NDCC § 75-02-04.1 -01 et seq. Shae v. Shae, 2014 ND 149, 849 N.W.2d 173 (N.D. 2014) .

The court is required to set child support obligation based on an income schedule established by the legislature. SDCL § 25-7-6.2 . Anderson v. Anderson, 2015 SD 28, 864 N.W.2d 10 (S.D. 2015) .

All case links go to Westlaw and require login.

1   In re Marriage of Vandervoort, 185 P.3d 289 (Kan. Ct. App. 2008) .

2   Rubenstein v. Rubenstein, 107 Conn. App. 488, 945 A.2d 1043 (2008) .

3   Eubanks v. Rabon, 281 Ga. 708, 642 S.E.2d 652 (2007) ; Midence v. Hampton, 2006 MT 294, 334 Mont. 388, 147 P.3d 227 (2006) ; In re Carr, 156 N.H. 498, 938 A.2d 89 (2007) ; Quint v. Lomakoski, 173 Ohio App. 3d 146, 2007-Ohio-4722, 877 N.E.2d 738 (2d Dist. Greene County 2007) .

 In evaluating changed circumstances in a child-support modification action, the courts remain obligated under the child-support guidelines to consider all sources of income or other property when calculating support payments upon modification. Clark v. Clark, 887 N.E.2d 1021 (Ind. Ct. App. 2008) .

 As to modification of child-support award, see §§ 998 to 1016 .

4   Crews v. Crews, 107 Conn. App. 279, 945 A.2d 502 (2008) , certification granted in part, 288 Conn. 901, 952 A.2d 809 (2008) ; Simpson v. Simpson, 275 Neb. 152, 744 N.W.2d 710 (2008) ; Quint v. Lomakoski, 173 Ohio App. 3d 146, 2007-Ohio-4722, 877 N.E.2d 738 (2d Dist. Greene County 2007) ; LaFrance v. LaFrance, 370 S.C. 622, 636 S.E.2d 3 (Ct. App. 2006) (overruled on other grounds by, Arnal v. Arnal, 371 S.C. 10, 636 S.E.2d 864 (2006) ).

5   Kotzbauer v. Kotzbauer, 2007 PA Super 357, 937 A.2d 487 (2007) , appeal denied, 952 A.2d 678 (Pa. 2008) .

6   Keck v. Jordan, 2008 WY 38, 180 P.3d 889 (Wyo. 2008) .

7   Brothers v. Kern, 154 Cal. App. 4th 126, 64 Cal. Rptr. 3d 239 (5th Dist. 2007) ; In re Marriage of Vandervoort, 185 P.3d 289 (Kan. Ct. App. 2008) ; Strange v. Strange, 960 So. 2d 1223 (La. Ct. App. 2d Cir. 2007) ; Lautt v. Lautt, 2006 ND 161, 718 N.W.2d 563 (N.D. 2006) ; Sapinsley v. Sapinsley, 171 Ohio App. 3d 74, 2007-Ohio-1320, 869 N.E.2d 702 (1st Dist. Hamilton County 2007) ; Decker v. Davis, 2007 OK CIV APP 46, 162 P.3d 956 (Div. 4 2007) .

8   In re Marriage of Vandervoort, 185 P.3d 289 (Kan. Ct. App. 2008) ; L.C.V. v. D.E.G., 2005 ND 180, 705 N.W.2d 257 (N.D. 2005) .

9   Quinn v. Threlkel, 858 N.E.2d 665 (Ind. Ct. App. 2006) ; Strange v. Strange, 960 So. 2d 1223 (La. Ct. App. 2d Cir. 2007) (child-support guidelines provide limits and structure to the trial court's discretion in setting the amount of support).

10   Gentile v. Carneiro, 107 Conn. App. 630, 946 A.2d 871 (2008) .

11   White v. White, 878 N.E.2d 854 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007) .

12   Hamlin v. Ramey, 291 Ga. App. 222, 661 S.E.2d 593 (2008) .

13   In re Marriage of Rogliano, 198 Ill. App. 3d 404, 144 Ill. Dec. 595, 555 N.E.2d 1114 (5th Dist. 1990) .

14   Schulz v. Schulz, 630 So. 2d 847 (La. Ct. App. 4th Cir. 1993) ; In re Marriage of Stufft, 276 Mont. 454, 916 P.2d 767 (1996) .

15   Yates v. Yates, 607 So. 2d 207 (Ala. Civ. App. 1991) .

16   In re Marriage of Stufft, 276 Mont. 454, 916 P.2d 767 (1996) .

17   In re Marriage of Gehl, 486 N.W.2d 284 (Iowa 1992) .

18   Page v. Page, 673 So. 2d 1317 (La. Ct. App. 3d Cir. 1996) .

19   Page v. Page, 673 So. 2d 1317 (La. Ct. App. 3d Cir. 1996) ; Crefasi v. Crefasi, 628 So. 2d 1274 (La. Ct. App. 3d Cir. 1993) .

20   Wood v. Wood, 184 W. Va. 744, 403 S.E.2d 761 (1991) .

21   Cobb v. Cobb, 588 N.E.2d 571 (Ind. Ct. App. 1992) .

22   Lesko v. Lesko, 392 Pa. Super. 240, 572 A.2d 780 (1990) ; Hanna v. Hanna, 813 S.W.2d 626 (Tex. App. Houston 1st Dist. 1991) .

23   Cochran v. Cochran, 309 Ark. 604, 832 S.W.2d 252 (1992) ; Strange v. Strange, 960 So. 2d 1223 (La. Ct. App. 2d Cir. 2007) ; In re Carr, 156 N.H. 498, 938 A.2d 89 (2007) ; Sapinsley v. Sapinsley, 171 Ohio App. 3d 74, 2007-Ohio-1320, 869 N.E.2d 702 (1st Dist. Hamilton County 2007) ; Ball v. Minnick, 538 Pa. 441, 648 A.2d 1192 (1994) .

24   In re Marriage of Gordon, 540 N.W.2d 289 (Iowa Ct. App. 1995) .

25   Redmon v. Redmon, 823 S.W.2d 463 (Ky. Ct. App. 1992) .

 The trial court is required by statute to consider the guidelines, although the court is not always required to apply them. Draper v. Draper, 40 Conn. App. 570, 672 A.2d 522 (1996) .

26   Burgett v. Burgett, 2008 WL 2154101 (Ala. Civ. App. 2008) .

27   Lincoln v. Lincoln, 155 Ariz. 272, 746 P.2d 13 (Ct. App. Div. 2 1987) .

28   Anonymous v. Anonymous, 617 So. 2d 694 (Ala. Civ. App. 1993) .

Read this complete Am Jur 2d section on Westlaw

FindLaw’s hosted excerpts from American Jurisprudence 2d are provided courtesy of the publisher of American Jurisprudence 2d, the industry-leading legal encyclopedia offering unparalleled breadth of coverage of all fields of American law. For full access to American Jurisprudence 2d, including annotations and citations, please visit your local law library or visit Am Jur 2d on Thomson Reuters Westlaw.

FindLaw’s hosted version of American Jurisprudence 2d may not reflect the most recent law. Please verify the status of the section you are researching at your local law library or via Westlaw before relying on it for your legal needs.