Category: Child Support

Child Support & Children’s Expenses

This Week’s Blog by Amanda K. Rieben

Many clients come to our office from towns in Fairfield County wondering which children’s expenses they will be required to contribute toward as part of their child support obligation. While the Court may order both parents to contribute toward certain children’s expenses, there are some children’s expenses which parents are statutorily required to contribute toward, whereas there are other children’s expenses which are entirely discretionary.

The Court has the authority pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-84, to establish a schedule and an amount of child support to be awarded, including a percentage contribution by the parents toward certain children’s expenses.  Specifically, Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-84, provides that “subsequent to the annulment or dissolution of any marriage or the entry of a decree of legal separation or divorce, the parents of a minor child of the marriage, shall maintain the child according to their respective abilities, if the child is in need of maintenance.” In determining whether a child is in need of maintenance and, if in need, the respective abilities of the parents to provide such maintenance, the court shall consider the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, estate, vocational skills and employability of each of the parents and of the child.  The Court shall also consider each parent’s earning capacity and the child’s education status.

While the Court’s authority to award child support is governed by Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-84, the schedule and amount of child support to be awarded are determined by the Child Support Guidelines in accordance with Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-215(a). The Connecticut Child Support Guidelines include a worksheet and instructions for determining the amount of weekly child support owed by the parents up to a combined net weekly income of $4,000.  In addition to a weekly amount of child support, parents are also obligated to contribute a certain percentage toward unreimbursed medical expenses, as well as child care. Parents are also obligated pursuant to statute to provide health insurance for any child whom the Court deems is in need of maintenance.  However, parents are not statutorily required to contribute toward many children’s expenses, such as sports and/or music activities, sports equipment, musical instruments, camps, tutoring, SAT prep courses, or driving classes.  Additionally, parents are not statutorily required to contribute toward certain educational expenses like private school tuition (other than college in certain circumstances) and uniforms.

Although, a parent is not statutorily required to contribute toward the aforementioned child related expenses, the Court has the discretion to order for either or both parents to make financial contributions toward these expenses. In making a determination as to whether such an order is appropriate, the Court will consider the §46b-84 statutory factors discussed above.  The Court will also consider several other factors which may include how long the child has been engaged in the activity and/or enrolled in the school, whether one or both of the parents as a child was ever enrolled in the school and/or activity, the emotional impact on the child, the child’s best interests, and the financial impact on the parents. If a Court ultimately determines that the parents shall contribute toward a child related expense, the percentage is often consistent with the percentages the parents are required to contribute toward unreimbursed medical and child care expenses pursuant to the Connecticut Child Support Guidelines.  However, this is not always the case. In some instances a Court may direct one parent to be solely responsible or responsible for a disproportionate share of a child related expense, depending whose decision it was to continue to enroll the child in that extracurricular activity and/or school.

At Broder & Orland LLC we recognize the financial constraints that a pending divorce can pose on both parents, and the effects that this can in turn have on their children. We understand the multitude of factors considered by a Court in establishing a child support order, and we are adept at helping and advising our clients how to financially plan for their children’s future.

Imputing Income for Child Support Purposes

This Week’s Blog by Andrew M. Eliot

In Connecticut, the amount of a non-custodial parent’s child support obligation to a custodial parent is directly tied to the respective incomes of both parents. Essentially, pursuant to the Connecticut Child Support Guidelines, parents’ respective incomes are plugged into a mathematical formula, which yields a weekly child support obligation that one parent must pay to the other.

For Divorce and Family Law attorneys in towns such as Greenwich and Darien, it is not uncommon for a client to raise concerns about the amount of child support he or she may be entitled to receive because the would-be obligor parent’s income has either declined dramatically from what it once was, or may decline dramatically in the near future for any number of reasons. In some situations, the decline or potential decline in income may be involuntary, such as where a parent is fired or laid off by an employer.  However, in other situations, the decline or potential decline in the income of a potential obligor may result from voluntary actions on that parent’s part, such as (a) an intentional career change into a less lucrative line of work; or (b) in some extreme cases, intentional and nefarious measures taken by a potential obligor spouse to reduce his or her income for the specific purpose of minimizing child support obligations. Consider, for example, a scenario in which a potential child support obligor voluntarily leaves a high-paying job on Wall Street shortly before a child support award will issue in order to pursue a career as a musician.  Alternatively, consider a scenario in which the same potential child support obligor involuntarily loses his or her high-paying job in finance, but then fails to make diligent efforts to find commensurate employment.

Notably, Connecticut courts have a means of addressing what lawyers often refer to as “voluntarily unemployment” or “voluntary underemployment,” in order to ensure that children receive adequate and fair financial support. Voluntary unemployment or underemployment occurs when a parent voluntarily makes less income then he or she formerly received or, upon experiencing an involuntary reduction in income, subsequently fails to make diligent efforts to find employment at a level equal to or better than income formerly received. In such circumstances, courts have the ability to attribute or “impute” income to an obligor parent for purposes of determining that parent’s child support obligation. In other words, when plugging the obligor parent’s income into the mathematical child support formula referenced above, courts may utilize an income figure for the obligor parent that reflects the amount of income that parent could potentially be earning (commonly referred to as “earning capacity”) rather than the amount the parent is actually earning.

In determining a party’s earning capacity for purposes of imputing income to that party, there is not a precise methodology that Courts employ. Rather, in any given case, the determining Court will examine the unique set of facts in that particular matter in order to make a determination. However, factors that Courts typically would consider in this context would include the relevant party’s historical earnings, employment history, vocational skills, employability, age and health. It is not uncommon in earning capacity cases for either or both parties to hire vocational experts for the purpose of proving (or disproving) the other parent’s earning capacity. A vocational expert will generally testify about what a person with similar experience and expertise should make.

Cases involving earning capacity claims are complex and, in order to be handled properly, require a great deal of attention and expertise.  At Broder & Orland LLC, we have extensive experience with earning capacity issues  and have a well-established track record of achieving favorable results for our clients in such matters.

Shared Physical Custody, Split Custody & Child Support

In our practice at Broder & Orland, LLC, we are often asked the following questions:

  1. If my spouse and I share physical custody of our children, do I still have to
    pay child support?; and
  2. Can my spouse get out of paying child support by requesting shared
    physical custody?

Generally, the answer to each question is “No”, however, the answer could be different
depending on the specific circumstances of your case.

Whether you and your spouse reside in Greenwich or West Hartford Connecticut the Connecticut Child Support Guidelines (hereinafter “Guidelines”) apply to your case. The Guidelines define “shared physical custody” as: “a situation in which the physical residence of the child is shared by the parents in a manner that ensures the child has substantially equal time and contact with both parents. An exactly equal sharing of physical care and control of the child is not required for a finding of shared physical custody.” An example of shared physical custody is the Father having parenting time with the children every Monday and Tuesday, the Mother having parenting time with the children every Wednesday and Thursday, and the parents alternating every other weekend with the children. However, the division of parenting time could be less than in this example and still qualify as shared physical custody.

Contrary to popular belief, shared physical custody alone, does not relieve a parent of his or her child support obligation. Pursuant to the Guidelines, in a shared physical custody situation, “the presumptive current support order shall equal the presumptive current support amount of the parent with the higher net weekly income, payable to the parent with the lower net weekly income.” Thus, presumptively, the child support obligation is identical whether there is a shared physical custody situation or a non-shared physical custody situation.

In some cases, there may be special circumstances in which a deviation from the presumptive support amount may be warranted for equitable reasons. The two special circumstances delineated in the Guidelines which may warrant a deviation in a shared physical custody situation are: (1) such arrangement substantially (a) reduces expenses for the child for the parent with the lower net weekly income, or increases the expenses for the child for the parent with the higher net weekly income, and (b) sufficient funds remain for the parent receiving support to meet the needs of the child after deviation, or
(2) both parents have substantially equal income. The analysis that is applied to such a deviation is fact specific and determined on a case by case basis.

Family law attorneys sometimes incorrectly apply the “split custody” analysis to shared physical custody situations. The Guidelines define “split custody” as: “a situation in which there is more than one child in common and each parent is the custodial parent of at least one of the children.” An example of split custody is where one child primarily resides with the Mother and the other child primarily resides with the Father. In that situation, the Court would determine the presumptive child support amount if both children primarily resided with the Mother, and then determine the presumptive child support amount if both children primarily resided with the Father, and subtract the lesser amount from the greater amount. For example, if the Mother’s presumptive child support obligation was $750 per week, and the Father’s presumptive child support obligation was $250 per week, the Mother would pay $500 per week in child support to the Father.

The attorneys at Broder & Orland, LLC are experienced with the Connecticut Child Support Guidelines and the various deviation criteria. No two cases are the same. We will tailor an approach to suit the needs of your family using all applicable Connecticut

CHILD SUPPORT PART III: DEVIATING FROM THE GUIDELINES

As discussed in Part I and II of this series, child support in Connecticut is determined by the Child Support Guidelines and numerous statutory factors. In the Connecticut court system there is a presumption that the amount of child support as calculated by the guidelines is the correct amount to be ordered by the court. However, in some cases, either an upward or downward deviation from the guidelines may be necessary or appropriate for certain families, including those who live in the towns of Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, New Canaan and Westport.

The presumptive amount of support as determined by the guidelines may be rebutted by a specific finding on the record that such amount would be inequitable or inappropriate. Parties may also enter an agreement that rebuts the presumed amount so long as the agreement cites or more deviation criteria as outlined by the Connecticut Child Support Guidelines. In order to deviate from the presumptive amount of support as determined by the guidelines, the presumptive amount of support must first be stated and specific deviation criteria must be cited. Connecticut case law emphasizes that all child support awards, including those resulting from agreements of the parties, must be made in accordance with the Child Support Guidelines.

Continue reading “CHILD SUPPORT PART III: DEVIATING FROM THE GUIDELINES”

CHILD SUPPORT PART II: THE CONNECTICUT CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES

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.

Continue reading “CHILD SUPPORT PART II: THE CONNECTICUT CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES”

CHILD SUPPORT PART I: A BRIEF OVERVIEW

“How can I ensure the financial well-being of my children?” is one of the most frequent questions posed to divorce lawyers in Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, New Canaan, and Westport. Divorce is a difficult time for families and all parents want to know that their children will be taken care of both during the pendency of the litigation and long after the final papers are signed. Obtaining support for minor children is therefore one of the most significant issues in a divorce or separation proceeding, and Connecticut courts take the matter very seriously.

Child support cases can sometimes become difficult, depending on the particular circumstances of a given case. This multi-part series will discuss some of the major issues and considerations associated with child support in Connecticut.

Child support stems from a parent’s statutory and common law duty to support his or her minor children. Support payments are meant to cover a broad range of expenses for the minor child, including but not limited to basic necessities such as shelter, food and clothing. Under most circumstances a parent has a duty to support his or her minor child until that child is emancipated or reaches the age of eighteen; in the case where a child does not graduate high school by the age of eighteen, child support payments typically continue until the earlier of the child’s graduation from high school or the child’s nineteenth birthday. Child support is typically paid from one parent to the other parent on a monthly or weekly basis. Payments can be made via cash, check, direct deposit or through a wage withholding order on the payor’s earnings.

Continue reading “CHILD SUPPORT PART I: A BRIEF OVERVIEW”