Custody battles can be particularly distressing experiences. While some parents can settle custody and support arrangements relatively amicably, other cases are filled with animosity and frustration. At the center of most custody battles is the issue of child support. Physical custody refers to the child’s living arrangements. The parent that the child lives with has physical custody. The other parent is typically responsible for making child support payments used to support the child’s needs. Under these arrangements, a child’s financial expenses should be covered by both parents regardless of where the child lives. However, child support can be a bit complicated to settle.
Child support payments are more than just agreements between former partners on how to care for their children. Child support is decided and ordered by courts according to various factors, including the parents’ income and the needs and best interests of the children. If you are not awarded full or joint physical custody, you will likely have to pay child support. On the other hand, if you rely on the child support payments of your former partner, an attorney can help you enforce the court order requiring them to pay.
Call (801) 758-2287 to set up a free legal consultation with Overson & Bugden.
Who Pays Child Support in Utah
In the past, when a married couple divorced, the mother would take custody of any children, and the father would be ordered to make support payments and be granted some form of visitation. While this arrangement was not necessarily written into the law, it was standard for almost all custody cases. Today, the law tries to refrain from making custody arrangements based on outdated gender roles. Instead, courts look to a multitude of factors unique to each case when deciding who pays for child support.
Today, either party may be awarded custody of children after a divorce. Similarly, either party may also be ordered to make child support payments. Fathers may have full custody of their kids while mothers are granted visitation and are ordered to pay child support. While numerous factors are considered, finances and the child’s best interests are perhaps the most important details.
If you are in the process of getting a divorce and need help making child support arrangements, our team could help. Our Utah child support attorneys can help you argue for a support order that will help you raise and support your children.
How is Child Support Calculated in Utah?
Utah child support is primarily calculated based on a mathematical table located at Utah Code § 78B-12-301. This table is known as the “base combined child support obligation table.” The table applies to both parents regardless of gender and works by comparing monthly combined adjusted gross income against the total number of children involved in the support proceedings.
The table has four basic purposes:
- To establish support orders entered on or after January 1, 2008.
- To modify support orders entered on or after January 1, 2008.
- To modify temporary support orders established on or prior to December 31, 2007, provided the new order was entered on or prior to January 1, 2008.
- To modify final support orders entered on or prior to December 31, 2007, provided the modification was made on or after January 1, 2010.
Additionally, there are a few points to make regarding the parameters and limitations of the base support table:
- The table only goes up to six children. If you have more than six children, additional payments can be ordered. Pursuant to Utah Code § 78B-12-205, The amount ordered may not be less than that for up to six children.
- If you have an incapacitated adult child who needs help with self-care, anything that the adult child can add to their own support may justify reducing the total support ordered, with some exceptions.
Child support is not the same in every case. Parents who earn a higher income will probably pay much more in child support than parents earning fewer wages. Support orders are also not set in stone and may be changed based on the child’s needs or the income of either parent. For help calculating a starting point for your support order, call our Utah child support lawyers.
Factors That May Influence Child Support Calculations in Utah
The table mentioned previously is extremely useful for figuring out a starting point for child support orders. However, it is not only this table that impacts the final determination. Other factors also play a significant role in calculating just how much child support a parent should be ordered to pay. For example, the courts will also consider variables such as:
- Medical Expenses – Does your child have a health issue, medical condition, or disability which requires additional financial support?
- Child Custody Arrangements – What sort of child custody arrangement do you have with your spouse? If you are sharing joint custody, exactly how many nights per year does your child spend in each of your households? If you have multiple children and have a split custody arrangement, how many children do each of you have custody over?
- General Child Care Expenses – Childcare expenses can vary greatly depending on factors like the total number of children, their ages, and financial factors affecting the parents. As a result, childcare expense considerations can be very different from one family to the next. Here are some examples of questions the court may consider:
- What sort of nutrition, clothing, and school supplies will your child need based on their age?
- Are you responsible for supporting any additional children who aren’t included in the current support action?
- Are you currently receiving or paying alimony?
The Utah Department of Human Services provides a free-to-use child support calculator which prompts users to enter information such as:
- The gross monthly income of the mother and father.
- The total number of children, whether adopted or biological.
- Any alimony payments which are also being made.
- For joint custody cases, how many nights per year the child spends with each parent.
The calculator can be a useful starting point. However, while the calculator can give you an approximate estimate, remember that only a judge can make the official determination. Call our Utah child support attorneys for help calculating the support you need and deserve.
What Can I Do if I Am Not Receiving Child Support from My Ex?
If your ex-spouse stopped paying court-ordered child support, or never complied with the order to begin with, you may be in a stressful, frustrating, and difficult position, both financially and emotionally. Avoid making any rash or hasty decisions, and instead, discuss the issue with our Utah child support dispute lawyers. If you attempt to pressure or retaliate against your former spouse, you could wind up unintentionally breaking the law, which will create more problems than it solves.
Many people wrongly assume that if their former spouse stops meeting their support obligations, they can deny visitation rights to force their ex-partner to comply. While taking such an action may seem fair or logical to you, denying visitation rights based on child support nonpayment is actually illegal and can lead to harsh consequences. Utah’s courts decide child support and visitation, and courts do not like it when people disregard court orders. Do not use visitation as a bargaining chip to make your ex-partner pay support.
If you withhold parent time in response to missed payments, you are effectively doing the same thing as your ex-spouse – defying court orders – and your noncompliance will undermine your own case. Depending on the situation, you could be found in contempt of court, which can lead to a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to 30 days in the county jail.
If your ex-spouse stops paying child support, the answer is to work with an experienced family law attorney in Salt Lake City, who can help you file a motion to enforce the judgment. This is known in Utah as a “motion to enforce a domestic order.” Provided at least 60 days have passed since the last payment was made, the court may suspend your ex-spouse’s driver’s license, as well as any special occupational licenses, such as a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).
The exact procedures for modifying child support in Utah differ based on which judicial district you live in, so be sure to consult with a lawyer for child support matters to ensure that you take the appropriate steps.
What Happens to Child Support if Physical Custody Changes in Utah?
Custody arrangements can be modified over time. After a divorce, a parent may have physical custody of their child while the other parent pays child support. However, if the needs of the child change over time, custody arrangements may be modified, and the child may end up living with someone other than the original parent. In such cases, according to the Utah Code § 78b-12-108, support payments must follow the child.
When physical custody arrangements change, meaning the child lives with a different parent or perhaps another relative, the parent responsible for child support must continue making support payments. However, support payments may be sent to the new person with physical custody. For example, assume Parent A pays Parent B child support because Parent B has physical custody. If Parent B’s sister takes physical custody of the child, Parent A must continue making support payments to Parent B’s sister. Support money is meant solely for the child’s expenses, not the adult with custody.
This also means that if a parent, who formerly did not have physical custody and was making child support payments, gains physical custody, they no longer need to make support payments. They can also request modifications to their custody arrangements to receive support payments from the other parent.
If you are in a situation where the physical custody of your child has changed, call our Utah child support lawyers for help.
Legal Duty of Support Owed by Parents in Utah
Regardless of who has custody or who must pay child support, both parents owe a legal duty of support to their children. According to the Utah Code § 78b-12-105, either parent may pay certain expenses no matter who has custody of the child or children. This includes expenses for the things necessary to a child’s health and wellbeing.
For example, the law holds that either parent can be billed for expenses related to a child’s medical and dental needs. It does not matter what the custody arrangements between the parties are. It does not even matter if the parties were never married in the first place. These expenses could be charged to either parent.
If you have full custody of your child and your child encounters a medical emergency, you can request help paying for medical expenses from the child’s other payment. It does not matter how much money the other parent is paying in child support. This is particularly useful when an expensive medical or dental emergency arises, and you have trouble paying for it even with the help of child support payments.
Salt Lake City Child Support Lawyers
If you are a parent filing for divorce and need help calculating child support, or if you need assistance enforcing a support order, our Utah child support attorneys can provide aggressive and efficient legal representation. Call Overson & Bugden at (801) 758-2287 to arrange for a private case evaluation, free of charge.