Rarely is an area of law so clear, so black and white, so legislated and calculated as child support. Or is it?
Utah courts actually provide an online calculator with a few fill in the blanks as to what child support should be. Simply type in the number of children involved, the number of nights at each parents’ house and the gross income of mother and father, and you’ve got your number. Typically, courts even require this worksheet to enter a judgment and, should you agree on a different number, require you to give a reason as to why.
However, income numbers can be a bit deceiving. The most common example of a questionable gross income taken from a tax return is a self employed person. This person can enter a personal gross income amount far less than their business gross income as long as they can convince a judge that the deductions from the business income are needed to run the business. Many times this issue goes to trial wherein bank account statements and business transactions are cross-examined thoroughly in effort to insure a fair amount of gross income is imputed to the self employed parent. This can impact child support calculations significantly as the income amount for the parent may drastically change the end monthly child support amount.
Another disputable number is when a parent makes no money at all. Utah Code requires that a Judge take into consideration several factors before allowing a parent to enter a $0 income. These can include education, prior employment, special skills, age of children and cost of daycare. This evidence will be entered at trial and both sides have the ability to question and add to it. The Court can “impute” an amount it thinks the party is capable of earning. Clearly, this number can drastically change the child support calculation and leaves the end result up to someone other than the parties and possibly completely different than tax returns.
The State of Utah funds the Office of Recovery Services which is extremely helpful in both calculating and modifying child support. However, they don’t typically have the resources to screen in depth the actual fair number parents should be either reporting and/or imputing as far as income amounts. A District Court is the venue that should be used to decipher what the fair and accurate numbers for purposes of child support should be.
If there is any question as to the amount either parent is imputing for income, address these issues with a Judge, through discovery and rules of evidence. This is the best way to ensure that you have either agreed or will be ordered a fair amount to either pay or receive in child support.
Photo Courtesy of: Prawny@freedigitalphotos.net