For divorcing parents who have young children, child support will number among the major issues they will need to resolve. Whether they are able to come to an agreement in the course of mediation or end up having to go through litigation, it can help to understand the general outline of the relevant rules.
Although Utah law sets forth some very specific guidelines for calculating support, there are still many factors that can influence the amount in an individual case. For a better idea of what to expect, parents should speak with an experienced family law attorney.
Major factors affecting support
Two major factors affecting the total child support amount are the number of children and the physical custody arrangements. Typically, the noncustodial parent pays support to the parent who gets primary custody. In joint custody arrangements where the parents do not get equal time, the parent who has less time may need to pay support.
Calculations for support are typically based on the parents' gross monthly incomes. If both incomes together add up to over $10,000 monthly, the court will step in to determine the right amount rather than relying on the calculator formula.
Courts will usually want to see proof of income such as paystubs or tax returns. Sometimes, one parent may be unemployed or underemployed. Courts have the power to impute income for the purposes of child support decisions. Judges will look at earning potential based on the parent's previous experience, education and normal pay for this type of work in the parent's geographical area. Usually, courts impute income when they think a parent could be working but is choosing not to.
How long support lasts
In most cases, child support stops when a child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever happens last. However, a child with special needs may - depending on specific requirements - continue receiving support even after this time.
If circumstances substantially change after the child support order is entered, either parent may request a modification. Parents may also agree on proposed changes and request the modification jointly.