Does the DSS child support worksheet miscalculate split custody child support?

Posted Wednesday, November 18th, 2015 by Gregory Forman
Filed under Child Support, Of Interest to Family Court Litigants, Of Interest to Family Law Attorneys, South Carolina Specific

After initially publishing this blog, Paul Lebarron, a staff attorney for DSS Child Support Enforcement and one of the authors of the guidelines, informed me that my calculations were off because my worksheet A calculations were not giving the parents credit for the child(ren) living the other parent’s home.  Conceptually I believe that credit is intended when a child is the child of one, but not both, parents.  However the guidelines language has no such limitation.  Evidently this explains why my calculations were off. 

When, on July 1, 2014, South Carolina updated its child support guidelines for the first time in eight years, one of the bigger changes was to the calculation of split custody child support (split custody refers to custody arrangements where there are two or more children and each parent has physical custody of at least one child). Previously split custody child support was calculated by doing a determine of the combined expected support requirement for the total number of children and then allocating that support on a pro rata share based on the number of children in each household. The new guidelines require two separate calculations based on the number of children in each home with the difference between these two figures being the child support obligation.

Under the old guidelines, in a situation where mom had custody of two of the parties’ three children, the split custody worksheet [Worksheet B] would determine the combined support requirement for three children and allocate 2/3rds of that amount to mom. Under the new guidelines, one would basically run a sole custody guideline [Worksheet A] for mom having custody of two children, run a Worksheet A for dad having custody of one child, and child support would be the different between the two. Quoting the exact language of the 2014 guidelines:

Using these guidelines, the court should determine a theoretical support payment for the child or children in the custody of the other. In split custody arrangements the guidelines arrive at separate computations for the child or children residing with each parent. The obligations are then offset, with the parent owing the larger amount paying the difference to the other parent.

S.C. Reg. § 114-4730(B).  The complete 2014 guideline is below.

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It’s rare that I have to calculate split custody child support and I haven’t had to do such a calculation under the 2014 guidelines before today when I consulted with a mother who had split custody. Running child support worksheets based on the income figures she gave me resulted in father having a support obligation of $2,037 per month for the two children in her custody and her having a support obligation to father of $410 per month for the child in his custody. Thus her child support obligation should have been $1,627 per month. Yet, running a Worksheet B calculation came up with a figure of $1,595 per month. While the Worksheet B calculation does comport with the DSS promulgated form, it does not appear that this form is doing what the regulation requires.

This is Worksheet A with mother having sole custody of two children:

This is Worksheet A with father having sole custody of one child:

This is Worksheet B with mother having custody of two children and father having custody of one child:

I’ve only done one such calculation and the difference isn’t huge–approximately 2%. But I suspect either I am misunderstanding the regulation or the DSS Worksheet B form is flawed. Given that the regulation specifically requires running separate computations, which would be Worksheet A, and then offsetting them, I don’t think I’m misreading the regulation. I believe the current version of Worksheet B is giving inaccurate child support calculations.

One thought on Does the DSS child support worksheet miscalculate split custody child support?

  1. Tom Traxler says:

    I will leave it to you to debate with DSS whether the DSS Worksheet B comports with the language in the Instructions, but I do want everyone to be aware that the Worksheet forms are law by the following excerpt. If the Guidelines Instructions and the Worksheets are both the law, then statutory construction requires that the Instructions and the Worksheet be interpreted to be consistent with each other if reasonably possible, and the way to do that is to view the Instructions to be a general description that are “tuned” or more specifically defined by the Worksheet.

    114–4750. Child Support Guidelines Schedule and Worksheets.
    South Carolina Child Support Guidelines Schedule and worksheets are specifically incorporated into these regulations by reference. Copies of the Schedule and worksheets are on file with the Legislative Council and may also be obtained from the State Department of Social Services and local clerks of
    court offices.

    HISTORY: Amended by State Register Volume 18, Issue No. 5, eff May 27, 1994; State Register Volume 23, Issue
    No. 3, eff March 26, 1999; State Register Volume 30, Issue No. 6, eff June 23, 2006; State Register Volume 38,
    Issue No. 3, eff March 28, 2014.

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