May 15, 2007

How is Child Support Calculated?

One of the first things a prospective client in a case involving child custody wants to know is “how much child support will I get?”

(The real answer is “what the judge orders,” but clients understandably aren’t fond of that sort of answer. I wouldn’t be, either.)

Here’s the long version: child support in Oregon is based on child support guidelines promulgated in the Oregon Administrative Rules. Whenever a case is filed involving child custody and support, calculations must be made according to the guidelines and submitted with the petition. (There’s a web worksheet you can fill out to get an idea of how it all works.)

The calculations take a number of factors into consideration: the number of overnight visits the child spends with each parent, the gross income of each parent (although even an unemployed parent’s income will be presumed to be what someone would make working 40 hours/week at minimum wage), whether a party is paying or receiving spousal support, if either party has non-joint children, what child care costs are, or the child’s medical costs, or the child’s insurance costs. The calculations can be very complex (which is why every family law attorney in the state has the Division of Child Support’s Child Support Calculator bookmarked in their web browsers).

Based on these numbers, you’ll get a “presumptive” amount of child support. This isn’t the end of the calculation, though, because there are a number of rebuttal factors listed in the Oregon Administrative Rules that could apply in your case. For example, a rebuttal factor could be if either parent has resources that aren’t reflected in his or her gross income, or if either parent has special circumstances (both good or bad) that could affect the outcome. Sometimes parents have excessive financial obligations that can inhibit their ability to pay, or there are serious tax considerations the court should take into account.

The judge will take all of the evidence — the rough calculations based on gross income and overnight stays, plus all of the rebuttal factors — into consideration when he or she rules in your case. So, while the real answer still remains “what the judge decides,” it’s possible to get a good idea of what child support will look like based on the numbers in the worksheet.