Every state has a different way to calculate child support. Some states only take in account the income of the parent who does not have primary physical custody. Other states, like Connecticut, take into account the gross income of both parents.
The child support calculation in Connecticut is standardized. Every superior court uses the Child Support and Arrearage Guidelines put out by the State of Connecticut Commission for Child Support Guidelines. The most recent version of these Guidelines went into effect July 1, 2015.
Under these Guidelines, there are very specific criteria used to determine an individual's gross income. The list of what is considered to be gross income in these Guidelines is not exhaustive, meaning it does not include every potential source of income. The Guidelines state that "gross income" means "average weekly earned and unearned income from all sources before deductions, including but not limited to the items listed." In contrast, the list of items excluded from gross income in the Guidelines is complete.
Judges and family support magistrates must follow these Guidelines unless they make an exception in their ruling and tell you why they are ordering a different amount. These exceptions are called "deviations."
Under Connecticut law, once a child support amount is made an order of the court, it can only be modified (up or down) if there is a "substantial change" in circumstances. The Connecticut statute defines a "substantial" change as any deviation that is more than 15% (+/-) from the guideline amount. However, this definition is subject to a "rebuttable presumption," meaning a party could argue that a gross income change that is smaller than 15% could be considered substantial based on the particular facts and circumstances in a case. If the court agrees with this argument, then it will agree to look to modify an existing child support order.
Also included as part of the Connecticut child support calculation worksheet is a calculation for each parties contribution to daycare (or child care) and unreimbursed medical expenses. It is important to note that a daycare contribution only comes into play when the custodial parent needs daycare to maintain employment. These daycare costs must be "reasonable and necessary." The noncustodial parent must reimburse the custodial parent for a portion of the child care costs incurred on behalf of the subject child based on the Guideline calculation. The reimbursement amounts are defined as a percentage of the daycare or child care costs. Amounts that are reimbursed or subsidized for daycare or child care are excluded from reimbursement, as are amounts that exceed the level required to provide quality care from a licensed source.
Thankfully Connecticut has put in place provisions to enable a party to get the other party to disclose their financial information. However, these provisions only come into play with the filing of a motion requesting disclosure of this information so it is my practice to file this type of motion early on. It is also my practice to fight to put in provisions that hold both sides accountable to automatically disclose of all sources of income and modifications of existing sources income to the other side until all children are no longer eligible to receive child support under Connecticut law. It is important to know when Connecticut law no longer requires parents to pay child support as well as the exception to this rule.
Therefore, you can see how very important it is that all sources of current income for both parties be known when the initial child support calculation is put in place by the court. You can also see how very important it is to know of any changes in gross income that occur going forward to enable a party to determine whether the child support order could potentially be modified. The sooner a party submits a motion to modify child support the better because, under Connecticut law, child support can be subject to retroactive modification by the court only from the date of service of such pending motion for modification upon the opposing party.
Please reach out should you have any additional questions regarding child support. As you can gather, each case is very fact specific. I can be reached at 860.295.1600 or via the contact form on this website.
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