Most divorcing couples who have minor children at the time of commencement of their divorce proceedings, share the common concern of which parent will be ordered to pay child support to the other. There are a number of factors a court of competent jurisdiction takes into consideration in determining who the payor of child support will by, and, what amount, if any, of child support will in fact be paid.
One important factor a court will look at is known as the “timeshare” between a parent and a minor child. The actual timeshare is computed by examining the percentage of time each child spends with a parent, and is reduced to a percentage figure.
Equally important are factors such as the parties’ tax filing status, the number of dependency exemptions claimed by each parent, as well as other deductions, such as
deductions for mandatory union dues or retirement benefits, deductions for health insurance or health plan premiums for the parent and for any children the parent has an obligation to support, as well as other hardship deductions.
Another significant number a court factors in, in making a child support order is each parent’s annual gross income. Annual gross income is income from whatever source derived and includes, without limitation, income such as commissions, salaries, royalties, wages, bonuses, rents, dividends, pensions, interest, trust income, as well as disability insurance benefits and social security benefits.
In fixing the amount for child support, the court may even go as far as considering a parent’s earning capacity in lieu of that parent’s actual income. The legislature of this state has made it abundantly clear that a parent’s first and principal obligation is to support his or her children. Thus, family law courts, when applying the above-stated policy principles, have established a number of methods in holding obligors to the responsibility of supporting their children.
While in some cases the court may impute income to a parent based on his or her income-producing, or even non-income producing assets, in other cases the court will look at a parent’s prior earning history, a parent’s education, work experience, and marketable skills, and order child support accordingly. Thus, even if a parent is currently unemployed, and produces no income, the court has discretion to make an award based on the parent’s earning capacity. The interests of the children have a place on the court’s top priority list, and in turn, the discretion of the court to ensure this priority is maintained is fairly broad.