Deviating From Child Support Guidelines


Denise C. appealed the trial court order requiring her former spouse, Kevin, to pay less monthly child support than required by the Statewide Uniform Guidelines. When the trial court made the order, Kevin had minimal visitation with his two daughters, due to investigations into allegations of his improper conduct with the girls. {Similar allegations had previously been raised, then rejected. Due to the resurfacing of the allegations, the juvenile court reduced Kevin’s visitation time from twenty percent (20%) to one percent (1%)}. Monthly guideline support was $816.00 if Kevin’s visitation was twenty percent (20%), and $1,121.00 if it was one percent (1%).



The trial court found Kevin’s visitation time was one percent (1%), yet it set child support at $816.00 per month, rejecting the guideline on grounds it provided Denise with household income “Substantially in excess of their expenses, while leaving Kevin with a shortfall of income v. expenses.” The parties’ Income and Expense Declarations showed that, under both support amounts, each household’s income would fall short of its expressed expenses. Under the guideline, however, Denise would nearly meet her expenses, yet Kevin would fall short by almost $1,000.00 each month.



The Appellate Court reversed the trial court’s decision, thus, reaffirming the legislative intent in enacting the guidelines and detailing the extremely limited exceptions to the application of the formula.



“The legislature has established a strong presumption that parental income levels, coupled with custodial time, and not parental discretionary spending patterns, shall determine the level of family support, absent some special or unusual circumstances resulting in injustice. . . the legislature did not intend that children of less frugal parents survive on reduced support payments to accommodate a higher parental living standard.



Virtually every child support order diminishes the living standard of the payor parent.”



Said diminished standard of living is not an injustice. If, in fact, expenses are considered a special circumstance allowing deviation from the guideline, control of the outcome would rest, to a large extent, in the hands of the payor parent.

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