Special Factors to Deviate from Child Support Guidelines

Each state is required to establish child support guidelines so that there is a systematic way to assign a specific amount of support given specified objective criteria. However, family court judges often have the discretion to make a subjective deviation from these guidelines.

Child Support Guidelines

Child support is the financial amount that one parent pays to the other parent in order to provide support for the child. Child support can be ordered when the parents are separated, going through a divorce or when the parents are not married. If a court establishes that a parent should pay child support, it determines the amount of child support that must be paid. This determination is usually based off of the child support guidelines. These guidelines typically indicate the amount of income of either the paying parent or both parents and the number of children to be supported. The paying parent then pays the amount associated with these two figures. The objective is for the parent to enjoy the same standard of living that he or she enjoyed before the parents separated.

Child Support Deviations

In some cases, the judge may be able to order more or less child support, depending on what the child needs and other factors. In many states, if a judge makes a deviation of this nature, he or she may sometimes have to make a finding that is supported by evidence. Deviation may be granted when adhering to the standard child support guidelines would be unfair or not in the best interests of the child.

There are a number of different types of factors that can influence a deviation. For upward deviations, potential factors include unusual necessary expenses, extraordinary health care costs, special education costs, medical expenses related to a child with disabilities or high extracurricular expenses. Sometimes the child support guidelines are only designed to work for families within certain income parameters. When the parents’ income exceeds a certain amount, this may also be cause for a deviation from the standard amount. As such, upward deviations are usually associated with families with higher amounts of wealth or high expenses.

For lower deviations, some states provide for less support as the amount of parenting time increases. Additionally, a parent who travels long distance to complete visitation may be able to receive a reduction in the amount of support due. Other potential deviations are spurred by the standard of living of the child, the parents’ incomes or support taking an untraditional form. Downward deviations are usually ordered in cases in which the custodial parent does not require the full amount provided by the child support guidelines in order to meet the child’s reasonable needs or in cases in which the non-custodial parent does not have the financial ability to pay the amount associated with the child support guidelines.

Requesting Deviation

Either parent may request a deviation from the support guidelines. However, a non-custodial parent usually requests the downward deviation, and the custodial parent usually requests an upward deviation. Deviations are not mandatory or automatic, so one parent must affirmatively request the deviation before the matter is considered by the court. Some states have specific requirements that the deviation request must be made within a certain amount of time before the child support hearing or it will not hear the request.

Determining Deviation Orders

The court puts the child’s best interests at the forefront of decisions related to the child best interests and is more likely to order a deviation when it is shown that this is in the child’s best interests than in arguments that are based purely on the parent’s inability to pay.

If the party requests a deviation, the court holds a hearing and examines evidence related to the reasonable needs of the child and the ability of the parents to provide the necessary support. The standard the court uses is usually by preponderance of the evidence. If the court finds by the weight of the evidence that the application of the child support guidelines would not meet the needs of the child or if it would be unjust or inappropriate to apply the child support guidelines, the court will order the deviation.

When the court is making decisions related to deviations, it can consider a number of key factors, such as whether the deviation is in the best interests of the child, the financial resources of the child, the child’s educational needs, the physical and emotional conditions of the child, whether the child support guidelines would be unfair or whether the supporting parent has certain debts, among others.

Provided by HG.org

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication at the time it was written. It is not intended to provide legal advice or suggest a guaranteed outcome as individual situations will differ and the law may have changed since publication. Readers considering legal action should consult with an experienced lawyer to understand current laws and.how they may affect a case.

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