If you have minor children, or children under age 21 with special needs, child support will be part of the financial discussions and cash flow analysis to be addressed in your divorce or custody/parental visitation matter.
What is child support?
The purpose of child support payments is to provide for your children’s daily, basic needs, which include housing, food, clothing, and health insurance. In addition, the parents will be allocated a share of the work-related daycare and unreimbursed health-related expenses of the minor children.
There are other expenses for children that are not included in the child support payment outlined above, but that can be included in your family’s financial plans when resolving your divorce or custody matter. These additional child-related expenses can include extracurricular activities, summer programs and camps, school trips, childcare, driver’s education, automobile insurance, tutoring and college visits and applications.
How is child support calculated in Connecticut?
Connecticut family courts apply the Connecticut Child Support Guidelines to calculate the amount one parent will pay to the other parent. The Guidelines have a mathematical formula based mainly upon each parent’s income, how many children you have, health insurance premium costs, and other tax filing and deduction considerations. The Guidelines provide a presumptive weekly amount of child support to be paid. If one or both parents are high income earners, the Guidelines create a range from which the amount would be determined.
If either parent has multiple components or sources of income, has variable income flows, owns a business, or is a high-income earner, you will want a knowledgeable child support attorney to be able to prepare cash flow analyses and scenarios to allow you to budget for the possible arrangements.
Depending upon the age of your children, child support can be a meaningful source of income received or paid over the years. Our family law attorneys at Ruel Ruel Burns Feldman & Britt can prepare cash flow analyses for you to enable you to fully understand how child support will be incorporated into your budget going forward.
Can child support be different from the presumptive support amount in Connecticut?
Connecticut courts may deviate from the presumptive amount under the Child Support Guidelines as long as the reason(s) fits into one of the following six criteria:
- Substantial financial resources available to a parent, which can include substantial assets or money received that does not fall within the definition of net income used in calculating child support under the Guidelines;
- Extraordinary expenses that are essential for the proper care or maintenance of a child, which are limited to education expenses, unreimbursed medical expenses, and expenses for special needs;
- Extraordinary parental expenses, which can include significant visitation expenses or unreimbursed medical or disability-related expense;
- Needs of a parent’s other dependents;
- Coordination of total family support, when there is not a lesser economic benefit to the child; and
- The catch-all special circumstances criteria, which can include shared physical custody, extraordinary disparities in parental incomes, and other equitable factors.
When and how can child support be changed or stopped?
In Connecticut, child support payments end when a child turns 18 years old or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. If a child is still in high school when the child turns 18, the payments end upon the child’s high school graduation, but no later than when the child turns 19 years old.
Child support can be changed or modified if there is a substantial change in financial circumstances since the time of the most recent orders. A modification upwards or downwards will likely be deemed appropriate if there is a 15 percent change in the amount under the new circumstances.
Through cash flow calculations, and an analysis of the particular circumstances surrounding the lives of your children, Ruel Ruel Burns Feldman & Britt can help you to determine whether a change in your, or your co-parent’s, financial circumstances would likely result in a change to the court’s child support orders.
College education and post-majority child expenses
Connecticut has a college education law that outlines parental responsibility for college education expenses for parents. The law is very specific and requires your child to be ready for college in order for parents to be ordered to pay such expenses. The expenses, if ordered by the court, can be no higher than the annual expenses for tuition, room and board, and mandatory additional expenses as then being charged at the University of Connecticut for a full-time, in-state resident student.
Our child support attorneys can assist you in developing options for paying for college education costs from existing assets or cash flow as part of your divorce, determining how a Connecticut court could apportion your child’s college education expenses after the entry of judgment, and enforcing existing college education support orders if there is a non-contributing parent.