Establishing Child Support
Child support can be a difficult and touchy topic. As a matter of law, child support is money owed by one parent for the support and care of his or her children, and payable to the other parent. In Utah, child support is set based on the income of each parent, and the total number of overnights per year each parent has the child or children. You can run a calculation to see how much child support should be at www.ors.utah.gov. Often, one of the most contentious issues between parents is how much money each party makes. Generally, child support is based on each parent’s income during a 40 hour work week. This information can be found on a W-2 or pay stub. By plugging those numbers into the child support worksheet, along with the number of overnights spent with each parent, it is easy to come up with the amount that will be ordered for child support.
However, things aren’t always that simple. Consider the following:
- What if a parent works more than 40 hours per week, such as overtime?
- What if a parent is stuck at part time work, and can’t work more than 32 hours per week?
- What if a parent is disabled, and is unable to work?
- What if a parent refuses to work, but has a work history?
- What if a parent is self-employed?
- What if a parent works, but gets paid under the table?
These are common scenarios that make getting an accurate child support calculation difficult. Attorneys will use several methods to address each of these scenarios to make sure that the amount of child support is fair and reasonable under the law. This may require using discovery, including issuing subpoenas, interrogatories, and requests for production of documents. An attorney may also, in some cases, ask the court to impute a certain amount of income to a parent, which means finding that the parent is capable of making more than they do. However, there are certain situations in which the court cannot impute income to a party.
Most of these scenarios are outlined in Section Title 78B, chapter 12 of the Utah Code. There are also administrative rules that govern the Office of Recovery Services, which are found on ORS’ website.
Modifying Child Support
So what happens once a child support order is entered, but the income of one or both of the parents changes? What happens if the child support order is based on a 50/50 custody schedule, but one parent has the child or children more than half the time? Utah law allows the court or ORS to review an existing child support order after 1 year if the parties’ income is different enough that the support award would change by more than 30%. The court or ORS can also review the order after 3 years if the income is different enough that the support amount would change by at least 10%.
But what if one of the parents lose their job? ORS will not change the amount of support based on “temporary unemployment.” But what is considered “temporary?” Often, ORS will not modify the support award until the change in employment is considered permanent. But in the meantime, unpaid child support arrearages can add up very quickly. If unemployment is going to be more long term, it may be necessary to bypass ORS and go to the court for relief. Doing this should be a high priority, because the court is often unwilling to reduce child support earlier than the date the party filed for the reduction.