Do I Need a Child Support Attorney?

Do I Need a Child Support Attorney?

Child support in South Carolina is generally set through the South Carolina child support guidelines. Because these guidelines are complex, getting help from a child support lawyer is highly advised. The rare circumstances in which the guidelines do not apply are when the parties have more than six children or where their combined income exceeds $360,000 per year.

Calculating Child Support

Determining the Parties‘ Child Support Income

Child support is based upon a formula created by the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS). The first step in the process is to determine each parent’s income for the purpose of child support. For most wage employees that income is easy to determine, but for those who are self-employed or work for tips, determining income for child support purposes can be more difficult. A child support attorney will make this step easier for you. For parents who are underemployed, the court can impute an earning capacity that is greater than their actual income.  Alimony paid to a parent from a non-party is treated as income for child support purposes.  Child support paid to a parent from a non-party is not. For a better understanding of how the formula works, and how it applies to your case, you should contact a child support lawyer.

There are certain deductions that can be made from a parent’s income in determining their income for child support. Certain mandatory deductions from wages for retirement or union dues can be deducted for income. Prior support obligations (both alimony and child support) can be deduced from income. The guidelines give credit for other minor children of a parent who live in that parent‘s home (including adopted children but not including step children).  If one parent is paying the other parent alimony, then that alimony amount will be shifted from the payor to the payee in determining income. Because the formula for determining child support income can be complicated and may require modification, help from a child support attorney will likely save time and money in the long term.

Calculating the Basic Support Obligation

After the parties’ child support income is calculated, a basic support obligation will be determined by looking at a table promulgated by DSS, which shows support levels by income and number of children. The figure from that table will become the basic support obligation. For help understanding this table, you may wish to consult a child support lawyer.

Additional Support Factors: Day Care and Medical Insurance

Additional child support modification is occasionally required. Work related childcare expenses for the child can add to the child support obligation. Such childcare expenses must be work related (child care expenses when one attends school are not covered) and must be reasonable. The parent paying the child expenses does not get full credit for the expense. Rather, the guidelines look to the tax credits a parent gets for day care and reduces the figure by that amount. You may wish to insure that a lawyer for child support is supervising this analysis for you.

One also gets credit for the child(ren)‘s portion of health insurance.  To correctly determine how much of a parent‘s health insurance premiums get credited to the child(ren) often requires obtaining that employer‘s health insurance rate sheet. Child support modifications can also be made in certain cases. If children other than those at issue are covered by this parent‘s health insurance, then the credit will be a proportional share based upon the proportion of children covered by the support order.

Determining Child Support

The basic support obligation, the child care expense net of tax credit, and the health insurance expense will be added together to determine the total support figure.  The next step is to determine each parent‘s percentage share of their combined income. This can be estimated more accurately with the help of a child support lawyer. If the payor makes 50% of the income, then he or she will be responsible for 50% of that obligation.  If the payor makes 70%, then he or she will be responsible for 70%.  The payor will get credit against this obligation for any health insurance or day care expenses he or she pays (for tax purposes, it always makes sense to have the custodial parent cover this expense as only the custodial parent can claim the tax credit).  The remaining amount will be the child support obligation, set as a monthly figure. For help understanding the percentage share that each parent will be responsible for, you should contact a child support lawyer.

Setting up Child Support Payments

Child support does not actually need to be paid monthly.  Parents who are paid weekly, bi-weekly, or twice a month often prefer to pay their obligation per pay period.  This is a matter of simple division.  However a parent who pays bi-weekly does not pay half the monthly figure but rather 6/13ths of that figure.  That is because this parent receives 26 paychecks over 12 months.  A parent paying weekly pays 3/13ths of the monthly figure.

When a payor has demonstrated an unwillingness to pay child support regularly and on time, the court can require payments through the court.  While this delays receipt of the payment by the payee, the family court child support clerk handles collection and can bring enforcement proceedings if the payor becomes delinquent. A child support attorney may help you understand the process during this period of waiting. Paying through the court adds a 5% service charge to the basic obligation, which can add $100‘s (occasionally $1,000‘s) to the annual support obligation.  It is an expense to be avoided if possible. Direct deposit and wage withholding are often better options of insuring timely payment. Child support actions brought by DSS require payment through the court.

Medical Reimbursement

The child support modification guidelines also have a formula for medical reimbursement. The custodial parent is obligated to pay the first $250 per calendar year per child in unreimbursed medical expenses. The other parent is then obligated to reimburse his or her income share of any excess expenses.

When a child has high and recurring unreimbursed medical expenses, that expense can be added in as part of the basic child support obligation. To make sure this process is done correctly, contact a child support lawyer.

Unusual Custody Arraignments

Split Custody

Split custody occurs when each parent has custody of at least one child at issue.  For example, parents might have three children together with one parent having custody of one child and the other parent having custody of two children.  To determine split custody child support one runs two separate child support calculations.  The first will be run based on the number of children in one parent‘s custody; the second will be run based on the number of children in the other parent‘s custody.  The difference between these two figures is the split custody support obligation. A skilled child support attorney can help you determine the exact amount needed to be paid in your case.

Shared Custody

Shared custody is applied when each parent has at least 109 overnights per year with the child(ren). The use of shared custody child support guidelines is discretionary and assumes both parents share in the child‘s basic expenses.  If one parent is paying all of the expenses, then the family court is not required to award shared custody child support. Shared custody guidelines are graduated between 109 and 128 overnights.  If a parent had 109 overnights, then child support will be 1/17th of the shared custody figure and 16/17ths of the sole custody figure.  If a parent has 127 overnights, then child support will be 16/17ths of the shared custody figure and 1/17th of the sole custody figure. Because calculating how many overnights each parents is getting can be hard, a child support lawyer may be very helpful for your unique case.

Shared custody child support differs from sole custody in two ways. First, the basic support obligation is multiplied by 1.5 when determining the total support obligation. This increased basic support figure is based on the assumption that it is more expensive to maintain two separate households for the child.  Second, shared custody support assumes that both parents maintain some of this basic support obligation figure for their own use in their own home. The percentage of this basic support obligation maintained by each parent is based on the percentage of overnights that each parent has. A child support lawyer can help you calculate this percentage, and will know which obligations apply to your case.

Application of the shared custody guidelines has the greatest impact on child support as a parent increases the number of overnights. It can have minimal impact at 109 overnights but will have great impact at 182 overnights.  It also has greater impact when the parent with more overnights has a larger percentage of the combined income.  If the parent with more overnights actually has vastly greater income, then that parent can end up with the child support obligation. In the same case, if the number of overnights varies from one year to another, then child support modification might be necessary. In that case, lawyers for child support can help to clarify any questions that you may have.

Hiring a Lawyer For Child Support

Even though child support is set via formula, many cases are not simple.  There are many ways in which an experienced child support attorney can be useful in calculating and negotiating child support as well as dealing with child support modification.  Issues on whether to base child support on actual earnings or to seek a determination of earning capacity, and whether a parent‘s pay stub or tax return accurately reflects income, often benefit from legal counsel.  Issues on whether to apply shared or sole custody guidelines can be in dispute.  Insuring that accurate figures are used and that all credits are obtained can require a skilled <em>child support lawyer</em>. If you would like to retain Gregory Forman as your child support attorney, contact him here.

 

 
 

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