The starting point for determining a child support obligation is calculating the adjusted incomes of both parents. This requires the court to first compute gross income. Gross income is defined broadly, and generally includes income from all sources, including wages and social security benefits. It also includes the income a parent should be earning if the court finds that he is underemployed. Once gross income is determined, certain deductions are allowed. These deductions include any alimony or child support payments currently being paid by either parent to the other parent. Once the deductions have been taken, this will produce a total adjusted income.
Determining the Obligation
Once the adjusted incomes of both parents has been determined, the figures are combined to produce a total household income. The total household income will then correspond to a support amount on the guidelines worksheet. For example, in Kentucky, if the total household monthly income is $5,000, the support amount for one child is $676. This is known as the base support amount, and the court will then add on any child care costs and medical insurance costs, which are to be split between the parents. This number must then be divided between the parents based on their proportion of income, which will become the monthly support amount for the parent ordered to pay. If that parent currently pays any child care or medical insurance expenses directly, these payments will be deducted from the obligation.
After determining the support obligation, the court may deviate from the guidelines if they are found to be inappropriate or unjust. Examples of criteria that a judge may consider include any extraordinary dental or medical need of the child or parent, as well as any extraordinary training or education needs. Further, provided the parents are not receiving public assistance from the state, they may generally agree to a different support amount.
A child support order may be modified in Kentucky if there has been a material change in circumstances that is both substantial and continuous. By law, a material change has occurred if a current guideline worksheet is submitted showing a support obligation that differs by at least 15% from the current order. While the change might be due to switching jobs by either parent, a court will still impute income for any parent that becomes underemployed. In other words, you cannot simply quit your job for the purposes of modifying a child support order.
Child support orders terminate automatically when the child reaches 18, unless he or she is still in school. In that case, the payments will extend through the date of graduation or upon the child turning 19, whichever occurs first. However, termination of the support obligation does not relieve a parent from the requirement to pay any outstanding arrears that have accrued based on a failure to make timely payments when due.