Utah Child Support

Utah Child Support

Utah law requires both parents to financially support their child (or children). The amount of support that each parent pays will depend on the parents’ income, custody arrangement, and the number of children involved. Because there are a variety of factors that impact support, it can be difficult to figure out an exact amount on your own. Parents can use the Utah child support calculator to estimate a support obligation. However, a judge will determine the final child support amount in your case. The Utah Child Support Guidelines are simply a fee schedule, or formula. Parents can agree to pay more than the amount given by the guidelines, but not less, and a court must approve the amount. Although a court presumes that the number given by the guidelines is the appropriate amount of child support, there are circumstances where the result would be unfair to a parent or the child. In those cases, a court will review a set of factors and may adjust the amount of support down or up.

Using the Utah Child Support Guidelines

To use the guidelines, you’ll need to know the adjusted gross income of both parents. A parent’s gross income is income from all sources, including:
• salaries and wages
• bonuses
• rents
• income from a trust
• pensions
• military pay
• alimony received
• social security benefits
• unemployment compensation, and
• gifts and prizes.
There are a few benefits that you can leave out, such as general assistance, housing subsidies, and welfare benefits. In situations where a parent is purposefully unemployed or underemployed to avoid making support payments, a court can impute a higher income based on the parent’s past and current earnings. Income will not be imputed, however, for a custodial parent who stays home to meet a child’s specific needs, or if the cost of childcare would be the same as the income this parent would make.
You also need to know how much time each parent will spend with the child. There are a variety of ways to share parenting time, but the guidelines calculate support differently for parents with “sole physical custody” (the child lives with only one parent), “joint custody” (the child lives part time with each parent), or “split custody” (where the parents divide the kids between them – mom takes the older child while dad has the younger child, for example).

If you have additional questions about the impact of custody on support, the Utah Courts website has a section on parent-time and custody. Once you’ve determined both parents’ adjusted gross incomes and custody, look to the base combined child support obligation table. These are the guidelines for a combined income from $726 through $100,000 a month. If the noncustodial parent has an adjusted gross income of $649 or less, or if the combined income is between $650 and $1,050, then you may need to use the low income table. Keep in mind that a court will have to review this number, to ensure it’s in the child’s best interests, but the minimum amount of support is $30. On the other hand, if the parents’ combined income is greater than $100,000, then a court may increase the amount over the maximum allowed by the base combined child support obligation table. The guidelines give you a total amount of child support due. After you have that number, you can calculate what each parent’s share of that amount will be. There are additional calculations to be made, often referred to as “add ons,”—one or both of you will have to cover medical expenses, health insurance, and childcare costs too. If it’s been less than three years since the original order was issued or modified, then you must have a substantial change in circumstances.

Challenging the Amount of Child Support

Sometimes, the total amount of child support given by the guidelines or the way that number is divided between the parents is unfair. If you think support should be increased or decreased before the court issues the order, then you can ask a court to adjust it. Once you ask, a court will review all relevant factors, but especially the following, to adjust the amount of child support either up or down:
• the parents’ standard of living and situation
• the parents’ relative wealth and income
• the ability of the paying parent to earn
• the ability of the receiving parent to earn
• the ability of an incapacitated adult child to earn, or the child’s benefits
• the needs of both parents and the child
• the parents’ ages, and
• whether either parent supports others.

Collecting Child Support and Enforcement

With a child support order in place, collecting your monthly payment from the other parent may be easy. Parents can pay support in whatever form is most convenient, including cash, check, bank transfer, direct deposit, money order, or by using payment apps, such as Venmo. If you’re having trouble collecting child support, you can contact Utah’s Office of Recovery Services for help.

Modifying the Amount of Support in Utah

Once a child support order is in place, you can ask the court to modify (change) it at any time, but this will require a different process. If it’s been less than three years since the original order was issued or modified, then you must have a substantial change in circumstances. Usually, a substantial change is a significant shift in custody or an increase or decrease of 30% in income, but there can be other reasons. The threshold is lower if an order has been in place for three years or more.

Child Support Enforcement

Utah provides for withholding child support directly from the earnings of the parent paying child support, much like income tax withholding. Both parents find payroll withholding of child support easier and very dependable because the appropriate state agency receives and disburses payment to the custodial parent. No more than half of the income of a noncustodial parent may be attached if he or she is paying more than 50 percent of the support for dependents of a second marriage. When the payor parent is in arrears, the approved number jumps to 55 percent, then 60 percent for a payor supporting dependents under the current order, and 65 percent for a delinquent paying only under the current order. The Utah Department of Human Services places liens on the property of a late or non-paying parent. The department can also place levies on bank accounts, intercept state and federal income tax return checks, and report late payments to credit bureaus.

Child Emancipation

Generally, child support in Utah ends when the child reaches 18 years of age or the child graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. A child will also automatically be ineligible for child support if that child marries, is removed from disability status by a court order, or the child dies.

Deviation Factors

Factors for deviating from the guidelines include:
• the standard of living and the situation of the parties;
• the relative wealth and income of the parents;
• the earning power of each parent;
• the needs of the parents and the child;
• the ages of all involved;
• and any responsibility of either parent to support others.
Family law courts in Utah determine how much child support a non-custodial parent (a parent who doesn’t live with their minor child) is required to pay by using the state’s child support guidelines. These guidelines take into consideration both parents’ gross incomes and the number of children that they have together. The court will follow the child support guidelines unless there is substantial evidence to rebut the guidelines. In order to determine whether or not to deviate from the guidelines the court will consider:
• The standard of living of the parents
• The relative wealth and income of the parents
• The ability of the non-custodial parent to earn
• The ability of the custodial parent to earn
• The ability of an incapacitated adult child to earn, or other benefits received by an adult child
• The needs of the custodial parent, the non-custodial parent, and the child
• The ages of the parties, and
• The responsibilities of the custodial parent and the non-custodial parent for the support of others.

Gross income includes perspective income from any source. For example: salaries, wages, commissions, royalties, bonuses, rents, gifts, prizes, dividends, severance pay, interest, alimony from a previous marriage, Social Security benefits, etc. Gross income doesn’t include means-tested welfare benefits that a parent receives. Adjusted gross income is calculated by subtracting alimony previously ordered and paid and child support previously ordered from the parent’s gross income. Each parent’s child support obligation is established in proportion to their adjusted gross incomes by following these steps:

• Step 1: Combine the adjusted gross incomes of the parents
• Step 2: Look up the base combined child support obligation using this chart
• Step 3: Take the appropriate figure from the chart and multiply it by each parent’s percentage of the combined adjusted gross income
The court won’t follow the child support guidelines above if:
• The parents have joint physical custody or split custody (see section 78B-12-102), or
• The non-custodial parent’s adjusted gross income is $1,050 or less per month

Imputed Income

In Utah, if a parent is unemployed or underemployed the court may impute an income on the parent in order to perform the child support calculations in the chart above. Imputed income is based on employment potential and probable earnings. This figure is calculated from employment opportunities, work history, occupation qualifications, and prevailing earnings for people of similar backgrounds in the community. If a parent doesn’t have recent work history, or if their occupation is unknown, then the court can impute income on the parent at the federal minimum wage for a 40-hour workweek. However, income can’t be imputed if any of the following conditions exist (and aren’t temporary in nature):
• The reasonable costs of child care for the parents’ minor children equals the amount of income that the custodial parent can earn
• A parent is physically or mentally unable to earn the minimum wage, or
• The unusual emotional or physical needs of a child requires the custodial parent to stay home and care for them
In income shares states, the court bases the child support payment on the income of both parents and the number of children. For example, if a non-custodial parent has a net income of $2,500 a month and the custodial parent has an income of $2,000 a month, the parents’ total monthly income is $4,500, using an economic table that shows the expected cost of raising children, the court will determine that the total monthly child support obligation is $1,125 for one child. The non-custodial parent’s income is approximately 55.6 percent of the parents’ total income and the custodial parent’s income is 44.4 percent. Therefore, the non-custodial parent would pay $625.50 a month in support, or 55.6 percent of the total obligation of the parents.

Percentage of Income Model

In percentage of income states, the court bases the child support payment on a specific percentage of the non-custodial parent’s gross or net income and the number of children the parent supports. The percentage of income can be flat or varying. In flat states, the percentage of income does not change even if the non-custodial parent’s income fluctuates. In varying states, the percentage of income changes when the non-custodial parent’s income fluctuates. For example, a non-custodial parent has a net income of $2,500 a month and one child to support. Only the non-custodial parent’s income is considered. The flat percentage of the non-custodial parent’s income that must be dedicated to child support is 25% percent for one child. The non-custodial parent will pay $625 a month.

In Melson formula states, the court bases the child support payment on a defined set of factors, which include the needs of the child and standard of living adjustment (SOLA) for the child. The Melson formula is a variation on the income shares model. It allows more money for child support as one or both parents increase their income. The calculations for child support payments in Melson formula states are more complex than either the income shares or percentage of income model..

The Court Discretion

A court has the power to deviate from the state’s standard model and base child support payments on other factors, including the needs of the child, the child’s standard of living before the parents’ separation or divorce, the ability of the non-custodial parent to pay, the needs and income of the custodial parent, and the amount of time that the child spends with the paying parent. Courts may also consider whether a paying parent pays child support for two or more families under two or more child support orders, separation or divorce agreements between parents, and the child’s own resources, such as a trust or inheritance.

Free Initial Consultation with Lawyer

It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

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How Far Back Can Child Support Go?

As a Child Support Lawyer, I’ve been asked before – How far back can I get child support? It’s a good and a complicated question.

  • How far back can child support go in Utah?
  • I didn’t even know about this baby, and now, 10 years later she is going for child support all the way back to birth.  Can she do that?
  • In Utah, is there a certain age where, if you haven’t already applied for child support, you can’t get back support?
  • Is there a statute of limitations on child support in Utah?

The key to answering all of these questions is PATERNITY.  Whether or not paternity has been established is the primary factor in determining how far back child support can go in Utah.  The secondary factor in determining how far back child support will go is whether you request child support through the child support enforcement agency or file a Complaint (or Motion) in court.

An action to determine the existence or nonexistence of the father and child relationship (paternity, or parentage) may not be brought later that five years after the child reaches the age of 18. That means that in Utah paternity can be established up until the age of 23.

How Far Back Can Child Support Go

What does paternity have to do with back (retroactive) child support?  In Utah, Paternity MUST be established before a court or a child support enforcement agency can make a child support order.  In addition, in Utah, a child support order can ONLY BE retroactive if made in conjunction with a determination of paternity.

 

  1.  Who can file an action to establish paternity in Utah?

The following people can bring an action for paternity:

  • the child or the child’s personal representative
  • the child’s mother or her personal representative
  • a man alleged or alleging himself to be the child’s father or his personal representative
  • the child support enforcement agency of the county in which the child resides IF the child’s mother, father, or alleged father is a recipient of public assistance or of services under Title IV-D of the “Social Security Act,” 88 Stat. 2351 (1975), 42 U.S.C.A. 651, as amended.  Public assistance, as used in this statute, means:
  • Medicaid
  • Utah works first
  • Disability financial assistance
  1.  Once paternity is established, how does a court decide whether or not to order retroactive child support?  

A court should not order retroactive child support if both of the following apply:

  • At the time of the initial filing of the paternity or parentage action the child was over three years of age.
  • Prior to the initial filing of the paternity or parentage action, the alleged father had no knowledge and had no reason to have knowledge of his alleged paternity of the child.  (the mother of the child may establish that the alleged father had or should have had knowledge of the paternity of the child by showing, by a preponderance of the evidence, that she performed a reasonable and documented effort to contact and notify the alleged father)

Establishing Paternity as an Adult in Utah

The issue of filing a paternity action in order to seek child support after a child turns 18 is a murky issue in Utah, and the nuances of this issue are still being determined by Utah courts.

On the one hand, there is a situation where a father, an adult child (any age), and the adult child’s mother all file a joint declaration in probate court alleging that the man is the child’s father and requesting that the probate court issue an order declaring the man to be the adult child’s father.  In that situation, the declaration must state

  • that the adult child’s birth certificate does not designate anyone as the adult child’s father (copy of the birth certificate must be attached);
  • the request for the order is made freely and voluntarily by all parties appearing before the court; and
  • genetic test results show the man is the adult child’s father. (A copy of the DNA test results must be attached)

If the mother is deceased, or has been adjudicated to be incompetent, the alleged father and the adult child can file an action together, without the mother.  The primary purpose for this type of action would be to formalize the father-child relationship and to establish rights of inheritance.  When an action is brought this way, the adult child and the adult child’s mother shall not be awarded child support from the man for the time the adult child was a minor.

Also, a paternity action can be brought by the mother, father, child or CSEA Agency until the child’s 23rd birthday (five years after the child turns 18).  Sounds simple enough right?  Wrong.  The tricky part is, that according to one Supreme Court in Carnes v. Kemp, if you are seeking child support after the child has turned 18, apparently that can only be done when the adult child files to establish paternity AND seek child support.

The issue presented to the Utah Supreme Court in Carnes was “Does a court have subject-matter jurisdiction to award retroactive child support payments in a paternity action initiated after the child has reached the age of majority?”  The Supreme Court of Utah answered the question with a YES.  The Court stated that a juvenile court has the authority to make a support order once a parentage determination is made, and that this means that it may extend the length of time in which to bring a parentage action.  This means that an adult, emancipated child can seek retroactive child support until his or her 23rd birthday.  If granted, the time period for retroactive child support could be from birth through age 18.

Okay, so, if you read the Carnes case, plus Utah law, you’d think that, since a mother can file an action for paternity until a child is age 23, that a mother would also be able to file for retroactive child support until the child turns 23, just like the adult child did in Carnes, right?   Maybe and maybe not.  In another case, the mother of J.V., filed for an action for retroactive child support.  The court of appeals said that because the child was over 18 the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to award child support to the mother.  The court noted that unlike the Carnes v. Kemp case, no action for paternity had been filed, but said that even if the mother HAD filed an action for paternity, the Carnes case only held that an adult emancipated child could establish paternity and get 18 years back support after reaching the age of 18.  The Court of Appeals in In re J.V. said that the Carnes case did NOT say that a mother had a right to file a claim for retroactive child support after the child turns 18, only that an adult child has the right.  This interpretation of Carnes may not be completely consistent with the Supreme Court’s holding in Carnes, and it is very likely that there will be more decisions addressing this issue in the next few years.

Free Consultation with Child Support Lawyer

If you have a question about child support or if you need to collect back child support, please call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Ascent Law LLC

4.9 stars – based on 49 reviews


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