Child support and maintenance (also known as spousal support) are issues that are often disputed between parties, both during and after a divorce. A court will decide what a fair amount of support should be in the event the parties cannot agree on an amount. The attorneys at Reuter, Whitish & Evans, S.C., can provide you with recommendations specific to your case, and provide you with experienced representation in court to address your support issues.
How does the court determine child support payments?
If a parent has physical placement with the child less than 25 percent of the time, the court usually bases child support on a percentage of that parent’s gross (pre-tax) income. The standard support percentages are: 17 percent for one child, 25 percent for two children, 29 percent for three children, 31 percent for four children, and 34 percent for five or more children. However, these percentages may be reduced for higher income levels. In addition, the court may adjust the standard support percentages upward or downward, if it determines that applying the standard percentages would be unfair in a particular case.
If each parent has at least 25 percent physical placement with the child, which is known as shared placement, each parent’s gross income is considered in setting child support. Though the standard support percentages discussed above are part of the equation, the calculation is much more complex because it also considers the amount of physical placement each parent has with the child. In addition to the child support amount set by this calculation, shared placement parents also are responsible for the child’s variable costs (such as child care, tuition, and special needs) typically in proportion to the time that the parent has physical placement with the child.
Sometimes one or both parents are paying child support already due to a previous divorce or paternity judgment. Under those circumstances, the court may reduce that parent’s gross income available for child support in this new case before applying the standard support percentages and calculations discussed above.
If the court believes that either parent is shirking his or her obligation, the court may use the shirking parent’s earning capacity, instead of actual earnings, as the income from which to set child support.
Even if the parent who receives child support fails to follow the physical placement schedule, the parent paying child support may not legally reduce or stop payments, unless that modification is specifically approved and ordered by the court. Doing so only hurts the child.
What is maintenance?
Maintenance, formerly called alimony, is money one spouse pays to the other during or after a divorce.
A person paying maintenance cannot deduct it on his or her income tax return. And the person receiving maintenance does not report it as income.
How does the court determine if maintenance should be awarded?
A husband and wife may agree on whether maintenance is appropriate and, if so, what the maintenance amount and duration will be. If they don’t agree, the judge decides these issues. The judge will consider:
· the length of the marriage;
· each spouse’s age and physical and emotional health;
· how property was divided;
· each spouse’s educational level;
· each spouse’s earning capacity;
· the likelihood that the spouse seeking maintenance can become self-supporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage, and how long it would take to achieve this goal;
· tax consequences;
· any agreement of the spouses;
· one spouse’s contribution to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other; and
· any other factor the court finds relevant.
What is a wage assignment?
A wage assignment is an order to an employer to deduct child support or maintenance payments from an employee’s pay.
When the court orders a person in a divorce to pay support or maintenance, the order includes a wage assignment order for his or her employer. But if a wage assignment order would cause the payer irreparable harm, the court may allow the person to pay directly to the State Child Support Collection Fund, which forwards the money to the other spouse.
What can I do if my former spouse disobeys a court order regarding child support or maintenance?
You must petition the court to enforce its order. This is known as a contempt motion. After receiving the court papers, your former spouse must appear in court to report whether he or she has followed the court’s orders and to explain any lapses.
After hearing the facts, the court decides whether your former spouse willfully disobeyed. The court may find your former spouse in contempt and grant him or her an opportunity to correct the contempt. Failure to do so can result in as much as six months in jail. The court also may issue other orders as necessary to remedy the contempt.
Additional questions you may have specific to your situation can be answered by one of our experienced attorneys. Please note that the information provided on this website is not legal advice, but is provided for information purposes only. For advice specific to your case, please contact our firm for a consultation.