Child support is a financial payment made by one parent to the other to help cover the financial burden of caring for and raising the parties' children. Child support is typically paid to the parent in whose house the children reside most of the time. The child support obligation is calculated on a weekly basis. However, the payments may not always be paid on a weekly basis depending on the pay schedule of the parent who is obligated to make the payments. Child support must be calculated in all cases in Connecticut affecting the care and custody of children under the age of 18 years old. The parties must complete financial affidavits showing all sources of income as well as a Worksheet for the Connecticut Child Support and Arrearage Guidelines. This worksheet calculates what the presumptive child support amount is based upon the family's income. The income, or in some cases the earning potential, of both parents is used in calculating the presumptive child support amount. Only mandatory deductions are deducted from each party's gross income.
Several issues routinely come into play even with this essentially simple formula. Issues that are repeatedly raised include what is considered income, how many hours of overtime each parent works and how many hours of that overtime should be included in the income calculation, whether a parent is working up to his or her earning capacity and if all bonuses and commissions or non-routinely periodic payments of income to a parent are appropriately taken into consideration on the worksheet. There are also potential deductions allowed for other child support obligations ordered by the court to children outside of this relationship as well and for the purchasing of healthcare insurance for the parties' children.
Additionally, the State recognizes that the presumptive child support amount may not be appropriate for every family. Consequently, there are 23 different deviation criteria that allow a judge to deviate from the presumptive child support amount found by the worksheet. Should any of these criteria apply to a particular family, the parties would have to prove the basis for the deviation to the judge who would then have to make a specific finding on the record that proof of the deviation has been found and order the deviation from the presumptive amount when making the child support finding in a case.
Included in the child support award are potentially three other figures. The first is the percentage that each parent will be responsible for covering work-related child care expenses. The second figure is the percentage by which the parties will share any unreimbursed medical expenses for the children. Both figures are calculated by the worksheet. Finally, the worksheet will calculate what payment should be made for any child support arrearage that remains due for past due child support payments. All these items are generally included in a child support award found by the Superior Court.
While the concept of child support and calculating the amount due can initially sound relatively simple and straightforward, this is another example of the devil being in the details. Miscalculating the income of the parties, the deductions due to either party or missing deviation criteria for a family can have a significant financial impact on the parties involved.