As discussed in Part I of this series, child support is the obligation that a parent has to contribute to the financial costs of raising their child. Child support must be determined in the following actions in which the parties have minor children: dissolution of marriage, annulment of marriage, legal separation, or child custody proceedings. A court is required to consider a multitude of factors as listed in Connecticut General Statutes Section 46b-84(a). In addition to these factors, Connecticut has adopted the Child Support Guidelines, which must also be considered by a court.
Divorce attorneys in Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, New Canaan and Westport, are familiar with both the statutory criteria and the Child Support Guidelines, and at Broder and Orland, LLC, our attorneys are skilled at understanding and applying the law and the nuances of determining child support.
At their most basic level the Child Support Guidelines are a mathematical formula based off of the Income Shares Model. The Income Shares Model takes into account the incomes of both parents and presumes that a child in a divorcing family should receive the same portion of parental income that he/she would have received if the parents had continued living together. The Child Support Guidelines use the Income Shares Model to determine an appropriate amount of the parents’ combined income that should be designated as child support.
Under the Connecticut Child Support Guidelines, each parent’s net income is used to calculate support. “Net income” is defined by the Guidelines as “gross income minus allowable deductions.” The Guidelines provide a number of items that constitute “gross income” such as salary, commissions, bonuses, pension and retirement income and trust income. When calculating child support using the Guidelines, both parties’ weekly net incomes are combined. The Guidelines then provide a calculated percentage based off the Income Shares Model and how many children the parties have, that is derived from the combined weekly income. Each parent’s support obligation is determined by calculating the percent that each parent contributes to the combined net weekly income. The amount calculated for the custodial parent is retained by that parent and presumably used for the support and maintenance of the child. The amount calculated for the noncustodial parent becomes the presumed support order to be paid to the custodial parent.
The Connecticut Child Support Guidelines cover combined net weekly incomes from $50 to $4,000 per week. For families who have a combined net weekly income of more than $4,000, child support is determined on a case-by-case basis.
Completed Child Support Guidelines must be provided to the court by both parties for all dissolution actions and hearings concerning child support. The Judge will then make an order regarding the child support obligation to be paid from the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent.
The Guidelines do not currently provide a mechanism for adjusting or reevaluating existing orders for support. When parties have a change in income, there is nothing built into the Guidelines that will trigger an adjustment. The Guidelines also fail to take into consideration anticipated changes in income. There are no automatic mechanisms built into the Guidelines. In order to modify a child support order, a party must file a motion for modification with the court.
There are particular circumstances in which a deviation from the presumptive amount of support provided for by the Guidelines is appropriate. Instances where this may occur and how deviating from the guidelines should be handled will be addressed in the third part of this series.