Interviewer: Any misconceptions or oddities about the division of assets portion of a divorce that causes people problems or consternation?
Michael Anderson: Usually people think that they’re entitled to half of the retirement account of the spouse. Let me just kind of explain a recent scenario, and how it works in Utah. Let’s say the husband has a hundred thousand dollars in the retirement account, and the wife wants half of that retirement account. In Utah they’re just not automatically entitled to 50 percent, they’re really only entitled to 50 percent of the increase in value of the retirement account since they’ve been married. So let’s say they were married for five years, for this example’s sake so it makes sense. When they got married he had the retirement account already existed and it had fifty thousand dollars in it. And then at the time they’re getting divorced, it’s now a hundred thousand. So technically in that scenario, she’s only entitled to 25,000 dollars or half of the increase of the value of their retirement account – we call that the Woodward formula, because there’s a case where the Woodwards were the guinea pig in that type of a situation where the court ruled that that’s how they would split up the retirement funds in the state of Utah.
Calculation of Child Support in the State of Utah
Interviewer: Is child support’s calculated by a formula. So what are the factors that go into the formula?
Michael Anderson: Quite honestly I don’t know what it is, I just use a child support calculator and it always just pumps out a number for us.
Interviewer: What have you seen are the major levers that change the amount?
Michael Anderson: What’s going to play a role in the child support calculator is your gross income – that’s the most important thing. The more you make, the more you’re going to have to pay if you’re the non-custodial parent. Even in joint custody situations, basically whoever has the kids the most, is going to be the one receiving the child support. So basically where you want to be if you want a full joint custody is 180-183 overnights is how it’s calculated. So the gross income, how many kids there are, and overnight visits – whether one has primary custody or if it’s a joint custody situation – those are really the factors that determine child support.
Child Support is Restricted For Children Under the Age of Eighteen
Interviewer: Well what about the number of children, ages of the children?
Michael Anderson: Yeah child support’s only given to kids that are under the age of 18, so once they turn 18 or have graduated from high school – whichever is later – child support ends for the paying spouse. The more you have is relevant, but not completely relevant because it does increase per child.
Interviewer: Have you seen it cap out, again, at a certain percentage of someone’s gross income?
Michael Anderson: Somewhere around 33 percent.
Child Support is Always Going to be Over and Above Spousal Maintenance
Interviewer: How does spousal maintenance interplay with child support? I guess child support will trump spousal maintenance if there’s just not enough money left right?
Michael Anderson: Right, exactly. Child support’s always going to be over and above, that’s going to be the most important thing that the court looks at.
Interviewer: Give me a couple of case scenarios that help people think about it easier. You know? The person makes ‘x’, has 3 children, that kind of thing.
Michael Anderson: So here’s someone at the low end with, let’s just say one child. Mom – let’s say she’s a stay-at-home mom – the court will impute 1200 dollars to her each month which would be a gross full-time minimum wage. Let’s just say dad’s making 2400 gross a month. What the court would do is they’ll calculate child support with dad being at 616 dollars a month would be the base award, and mom would be 307 which means that if dad had custody, mom’s paying 307. And if mom has custody, dad pays 616.
An Example of How Child Support is Ascertained During a Divorce Proceeding
Now that’s two kids, kind of on some lower end. Let’s do like 3 kids, and let’s double those numbers. Let’s say mom’s making 2400, and dad’s making let’s just say 5000. And that would put child support for dad at 1098 a month, and mom at 526. Which means if dad’s got the kids, mom’s paying 526 dollars a month in child support; and if mom’s got the kids the dad’s paying 1098 a month. Now that’s based on a full custody. So if it’s joint, it’s going to be different. And let me tell you how much difference. So on that same scenario where there’s 3 kids, dad’s making five grand, mom’s making 2400 – let’s just put mom in as being the custodial parent with 183 overnights and dad having 182 overnights. That would put – because that’s pretty much like a week on/week off where they have it completely joint – child support from dad to mom would be 301 a month. So see the same type of situation went from a thousand down to 301, because he’s got the kids half the time during the month.