Common Myths With Respect to Child Support In Connecticut

This Week’s Blog by Sarah E. Murray

  • Myth #1: There is no child support awarded in cases where parenting time is shared equally or nearly equally
  • Myth #2: Child support is meant to cover all of the costs of raising a child
  • Myth #3: Child support is paid until the children turn 21

Child Support is Sometimes Awarded in Cases Where There is Shared Custody

Clients in Greenwich and Stamford hear several myths and misconceptions about child support in Connecticut, which is determined in accordance with the Connecticut Child Support Guidelines.  At Broder & Orland LLC, one of our roles is to educate our clients about Connecticut law on child support so that they can make informed decisions when negotiating or litigating their cases.

Many clients are under the impression that a shared parenting plan, in which the parties share physical custody of the children, means that no child support will be paid from one party to the other.  Some divorce litigants in Fairfield County actually try to negotiate a shared parenting schedule because they think that it will exempt them from having to pay child support to the other party.  They can even go so far as to insist on an exact fifty-fifty parenting schedule for this reason.

Under the Connecticut Child Support Guidelines, shared physical custody is defined as “a situation in which the physical residence of the child is shared in a manner that ensures the child has substantially equal time and contact with both parents.”  In other words, the parenting time with the child or children does not have to be exactly equal for it to be considered shared physical custody under the Child Support Guidelines.  This is a common misconception that divorce clients have.  If a party has six out of fourteen overnights, that schedule would be considered shared physical custody.

In situations where there is shared physical custody, the Child Support Guidelines provide that child support should be paid by the party with the higher net weekly income to the party with the lower net weekly income in the amount set forth in the guidelines.

Parties can deviate from the Child Support Guidelines in shared physical custody cases, meaning that they can choose not to have the party who earns more pay child support to the other party, or they can choose to have that party pay a lesser amount of child support than prescribed by the guidelines.  Connecticut law supports such a deviation where: 1) the shared physical custody arrangement substantially reduces expenses for the parent with the lower income; or 2) the shared physical custody arrangement substantially increases expenses for the parent with the higher income; and, if one of the two former conditions is met, 3) sufficient funds are available for the parent with the lower income to meet the needs of the child.  Parties can also deviate in a shared physical custody case where their incomes are substantially equal.

Unless parties deviate from the Child Support Guidelines, as described above, a shared physical custody arrangement does not exempt the party who earns more from paying child support.

I Pay Child Support. Why Do I Have to Pay for Anything Else for My Child?

This is a question that we hear often at Broder & Orland LLC.  Child support is meant to be a contribution toward the basic household expenses incident to raising a child, such as food, clothing, and the child’s share of shelter expenses.  Connecticut’s Child Support Guidelines set forth the formula for determining the amount of child support to be paid in a given case based on the parties’ combined net weekly incomes.  The Child Support Guidelines are uniformly applicable throughout the state; there are no “Fairfield County” guidelines that take into account the fact that the cost of living in Fairfield County is much higher than it is in other parts of the state.

Child support does not include, however, all expenses incident to raising a child.  For example, extracurricular activities, work-related childcare, and unreimbursed medical expenses are not covered by the child support paid from one parent to another. Typically, the payment of these expenses is allocated between the parties pursuant to a settlement or final divorce judgment in a case.

Child Support in Connecticut Does Not Extend Until the Child Turns 21

Fairfield County divorce clients who work in New York are often surprised to learn that child support does not extend until a child’s twenty-first birthday because, in New York, that is the law.  In Connecticut, child support ends upon a child attaining the age of eighteen, but if the child is still in high school upon attaining the age of eighteen, child support ends when the child graduates high school or turns nineteen, whichever event happens first.  For parents who expect that their children will live primarily with them during school breaks and summers home from college, this can be disappointing news, as that parent will shoulder more of the financial burden related to the children during those years.  Sometimes, we factor this in as part of alimony negotiations in order to assist the parent who will be housing and feeding a college-age child the majority of the time.

Contact a Top Fairfield County Divorce Attorney to Discuss Connecticut Child Support Law

At Broder & Orland LLC, we can discuss with you how the law regarding child support applies to the particular facts of your case.