Child Support in Utah

Child Support in Utah

In Utah, in a divorce proceeding where there are children from the marriage, the issue of child custody and child support is of prime importance. Generally, one parent will be given custody of the children (except in case of a joint custody order) and the other will have visitation rights. The parent who does not get custody will generally be required to pay child support to the parent with custody. Even in case of joint custody, one parent may be ordered to pay child support. If you are seeking child support from your spouse or your spouse is seeking child custody from you, an experienced Utah child support attorney is your best friend.

Child Support Guidelines

Utah has a set of guidelines for deciding child support. These guidelines are part of Utah Code section 78B-12-204 through 205. Amongst others the guidelines require the court to consider the following:

• The standard of living of the spouses

• The income and wealth of the spouses

• The earning ability of the non-custodial parent

• In case of an incapacitated adult child, the ability of that child to earn or the benefits received by such adult child

• The needs of the parties – the child and both the parents – custodial and non-custodial.

• The age of the parents

• Support if any provided by either spouse to the other

Need for Child Support

Because married men usually earn more than women, the payment of child support when the mother becomes a single parent is vitally important to her well-being and that of her children. In some cases (though a statistically smaller number), payment by a noncustodial mother is also vitally important. Child support has become a cause célèbre. Advocacy and support groups throughout the country, such as Fathers United for Equal Rights, often target legislators for child support and custody reform. “Deadbeat” dads have been a target of legislators for years as denial of paternity by some fathers and lack of child support payments by others have caused many mothers to spiral down into poverty. Child support is needed to help stop the financial drain.

In the eyes of the law, both parents have an absolute legal obligation to provide financial support to their children. A mother and a father may love, hate, or not care at all about each other; the quality of the relationship between parents does not affect their joint obligation to their children in any way. Child support is, has been, and will be a primary parental responsibility whether a child’s parents are rich or poor, sick or well, together or estranged.

When children’s parents live together as a family, child support rarely becomes a concern of the courts. When parents separate or divorce (or have a child out of wedlock), a family court attempts to enforce children’s rights to financial support by ordering parents (or a parent) to pay specific sums of money either to the children’s other parent or to a third party (a school, a day-care center, an insurance company, a counselor, a trust fund manager, and so on). Parents often are also required to secure medical and/or dental benefits for their children. Child support obligations begin when children are born and continue until the children reach the legal equivalent of adulthood. Courts typically require parents to provide life insurance or some other funding vehicle to guarantee that support payments will continue after the death of the parents.
The law is clear in its insistence that both parents share financial responsibility for their children, although the enforcement of the law often places a greater burden on fathers due to gender bias. In cases where one parent has sole or primary custody of a couple’s children, custody itself frequently satisfies all or part of the custodial parent’s support obligation. Support funds contributed by the noncustodial parent, when combined with the custodial parent’s day-to-day support, must be sufficient to cover all normal child‐ rearing expenses (housing, food, clothing, medical care, education, and recreation).

A child’s support entitlement is not limited to the funds needed to meet basic needs. Almost all support statutes now mandate support awards large enough to maintain the “standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved.” When a divorcing couple’s income and assets are substantial enough to make such awards feasible, family courts require parents to continue to pay for the same kinds of “luxury” items they gave their kids prior to the divorce.

Most domestic relations courts are extremely vigilant in protecting the support rights of children. In fact, many family court judges believe that their court’s most important function is to ensure that child support is sufficient, appropriate, and consistent with the law.

Support statutes always make “the interests of the children” the main component of court-ordered support allocations. In divorces ending in settlement, the courts carefully review the support provisions of the settlement agreement to ensure that children’s needs and entitlements haven’t been compromised. It is not unusual for a family court judge to summon independent financial experts to evaluate the adequacy of support arrangements. Countless court orders have overturned or modified support settlements deemed insufficient.

Courts rarely allow a parent to waive child support. This protective attitude prevents parents from “trading” a child’s support rights for other benefits to themselves or to the child. A court will generally consider the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved. A court’s commitment to the maintenance of a child’s standard of living is the consideration most often cited in unusual support awards. Often, this factor is also the issue most hotly contested by divorcing parents.

The Physical, Emotional, and Mental Condition of the Child
Special needs of children beset with health, adjustment, or developmental problems are always considered in determining support obligations. Whenever possible, courts will try to ensure that children who need special education, psychological counseling, psychiatric care, physical therapy, orthodontia, or other professional services continue to receive appropriate treatment after their parents divorce. In many states, especially when it affects the ability of parents to earn a living, day care is considered to be an essential service.

Enforcement of Support Orders

Failure to pay court order child support can have serious consequences.
If child support is not paid in compliance with family court rulings, a variety of collection mechanisms are used to attempt enforcement. The most common is the issuance of an Order of Withholding, a form of wage garnishment through which the court collects delinquent support directly from the responsible parent’s employer.

Failure to pay child support can also result in the seizure of a parent’s property, interception of tax refunds, and confiscation of bank accounts. Private collection agencies and locator services operated by federal and state prosecutors will assist in the enforcement of valid support orders.
The State of Utah has an Office of Recovery Services which helps custodial parents collect child support from the non-custodial parent.
If you are the custodial parent and your spouse is not paying the court ordered child support, you can seek to attach your spouse’s income to recover the child support amount including back child support. Under Utah law, you can attach up to half your spouse’s income if he is paying more than 50 percent of support for dependents of his or her second marriage. When the spouse paying child support is in arrears, the approved percentage increases to fifty five, then sixty percent for a spouse supporting dependants under the current order, and sixty five percent for a delinquent paying only under the current order.

Child support payments can also be recovered by placing liens on the non-paying spouse’s property and bank accounts. Failure to pay or late payment of child support payments can be reported to credit bureaus and will adversely affect the credit ratings.

Prenuptial Agreements

You cannot limit the amount of child support you may be required to pay in case of a divorce by entering into a prenuptial agreement with your spouse. A clause in a prenuptial agreement limiting the amount of child support will not be enforced by a court in Utah. The reason is simple – child support belongs to the child and not the parents.

Modification of Child Support Orders

You can apply to the court to modify the child support orders if your situation changes subsequently. A significant change in your income is one of the main grounds for seeking a change in a child custody order under Utah law. However, the significant change in the income must be proved through bank statements, salary slips and other documents. Merely claiming that there is a significant change in the income will not result in the court changing the child support order. Another ground for seeking modification of the child support order if you are the custodial parent who is receiving the support, is significant change in the child’s circumstances. For example, if the child subsequently develops some problems which may result in increased expenses for the rest of his childhood, you can ask the court to modify the child support order. The non-custodial parent can object to your request for modification of the child support order. Hence it is important that you use the services of an experienced Utah child support attorney.

Generally, you can seek a modification after three years. However. in some cases, you can seek a modification before three years. These include:

• A change in custody

• A significant increase or decrease in the assets and income of either parent

• Change in the medical requirements of the child

• Change in the education requirements of the child

• Change in the health insurance availability

• Change in childcare expenses due to work/employment

Non-Custodial Parent

Just because you are the non-custodial parent, it does not mean that you have to pay child support. Generally, the non-custodial parent has to pay child support to the custodial parent. But what if you don’t have the resources to pay child support? Remember once a child support order is passed against you, you have to pay it otherwise your spouse can seek to enforce the child support order against you. It is therefore important that you fight the child support case against you. Seek the assistance of an experienced Utah child support attorney. You have to prove that you are not in a position to pay child support and you must support your claim with evidence.

Paying Child Support

There are two methods of paying child support in Utah – direct and indirect. Direct payments include payments made directly to the custodial parent through checks, online transfer, money order, etc. Indirect transfer means payments made to third parties like payment of school fees to the school instead of letting the custodial parent do it. When you are paying directly to the custodial parent, make sure you don’t pay cash. Pay through other means so that you can have documentary evidence.

Living Expenses

Under Utah law, child support payments are made to ensure that the living expenses of the child are taken care of. It essentially covers the basic items and necessities like shelter, food, medical expenses, clothing, health insurance and the like. Besides the basic necessities, child support also includes other expenses such as school fees, day care, extra curricular activities, travel and transportation costs, etc. The State of Utah has developed a child support calculator which is available online. By entering the details in the child support calculator, you can get an idea of the amount of child support.

Moving Out of Utah

If you are moving out of Utah and you are the parent paying child support, your obligation to pay child support will not be affected. Moving out will not get rid of the child support obligation. Remember it is a court order and a court order can only be set aside or modified by a court. If you are moving out of Utah and you want to modify the child support order against you, speak to an experienced Utah child support attorney to know your rights.

Child Support Lawyer in Utah Free Consultation

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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Child Support

Child support is mandatory in any divorce involving minor children. Petitioners with minor children must include an order for child support, even if the other parent is unemployed or cannot be found.

Child Support in Divorce

Most state laws have guidelines to determine child support payments. The payment amount is based on each parent’s income and the amount of time he or she spends with the children. The guidelines also provide for add-on amounts for the following expenses:

  • Child care
  • Health care and health insurance
  • Special educational or other needs
  • Travel-related visitation

Parents can increase or decrease the guideline amount if the following conditions are met:

  1. Both parents acknowledge they are fully informed of their rights under state law and the amount of child support is mutually agreed on,
  2. Both parents declare the agreed upon amount is in the children’s best interests and will adequately meet their needs, and
  3. For welfare recipients, the right to support has not been assigned to the county, and neither parent has a public assistance application pending.

Keep in mind that the judges presiding over divorces are the ultimate authority on child support decisions. They can deviate from the guidelines as they see fit.

Child support orders can be modified at any time. Special circumstances or income changes are just two reasons to revisit child support payments. The parties can agree in writing to the changed amount or can file a motion with the court. After the divorce is finalized, you should consult an attorney to change the amount.

Any order for child support payments typically includes an order for the assignment of wages. Child support payments usually begin when the judgment dissolving the marriage will be signed by the court, even though the parties will not legally be divorced until after the waiting period. If the judgment is delayed, you can file an application with the court to rush the payment of child support. You should seek an attorney if this is the case.

If a parent does not pay child support or is significantly late, he or she can be sued for contempt of court, have wages or tax refunds attached, or have his or her driver’s license blocked. These actions should be handled by an experienced attorney.

Tax Implications of a Divorce

Divorce can be challenging, particularly when it comes to tax time. Which spouse owes taxes? What forms and returns need to be filed? When do I need to file? How do I file? What is the best tax planning strategy for my divorce?

Tax Filing Status

A taxpayer will be considered unmarried at the end of a tax year if his/her spouse is legally separated from the taxpayer under divorce decree or separate maintenance contract at the close of the tax year.

A married taxpayer will be considered unmarried and eligible for head of household status if the taxpayer’s spouse was not a member of the household for the last six months of the year and the household is the home of a dependent child.

Liability on Joint Return

You may request relief from liability for tax, plus related penalties and interests for which you believe that your spouse (or former spouse) should be liable.

Innocent Spouse Relief is available if you: (1) filed a joint return and (2) are no longer married to (or are legally separated from) the spouse with whom the joint return was filed.

Dependency Exemptions 

In general, the dependency exemption for children of divorced taxpayers will go to the parent who has custody of the child for the greater part of the calendar year.

Alimony and Spousal Support 

In general, alimony and separate maintenance payments are income to the recipient and are deductible by the payer. Different rules apply to alimony that went into effect prior to 1985.

If you have specific questions about the tax implications of a divorce, you should speak to a licensed tax expert.

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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Child Support by Agreement

Child Support by Agreement

Payment of child support can come about in one of three main ways:

  • Agreed upon in informal negotiations between the parents (usually with attorneys)
  • Resolved through use of out-of-court alternative dispute resolution (ADR) proceedings
  • Decided when a child support order is entered by a court.

The following overview focuses on resolution of child support payment through use of the first two methods mentioned above: agreement between the parents through informal settlement negotiation and use of ADR processes such as mediation and collaborative family law. Note: Even if your child support situation is resolved outside of court, in most states you will need court approval of your agreement to ensure that it complies with the Utah State guidelines on child support. You should call us to discuss this to make sure your child support agreement is enforceable in court.

Child Support through Informal Negotiations

If parents are willing to work together informally to resolve all issues related to child support (including payment amount, frequency of payments, and duration) they can negotiate an agreement with or without the assistance of attorneys. In some cases, the parties in a child support dispute may prefer to have their positions negotiated by an attorney, or the parties may negotiate themselves, and can consult their attorneys prior to finalizing any agreement. The specific settlement negotiation process will vary in most cases, but the ideal end result of successful settlement talks in a child support case is a written agreement. This written agreement may be referred to as a “settlement agreement,” and in some child support cases (such as those that are part of a divorce) the agreement on child support may be a part of a larger “divorce agreement” or “dissolution agreement.” (more on finalizing this agreement below.)

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and Child Support

For parents who need to resolve a child support matter, another option is alternative dispute resolution (ADR) — including processes such as mediation and collaborative law. ADR may prove to be a beneficial tool in resolving child support issues, depending on factors such as the degree to which the parents are in dispute on key issues related to child support and their willingness to work together to resolve those issues.

Child Support in Mediation

ADR processes tend to be less adversarial and more casual than the traditional court setting, and may facilitate early settlement.

With mediation and collaborative family law, parents in a child support dispute (along with their attorneys) have an opportunity to play an active role in resolving key decisions related to child support, instead of having a third party (judge or jury) make those decisions. Rarely used in family law cases, arbitration is a more structured ADR option, in which a neutral third-party makes decisions after hearing each side’s evidence and arguments. The arbitrator’s decision in a child support is not necessarily final, and the parties may still be able to resolve key issues before a court at a later date.

Finalizing the Child Support Agreement

Whether the parties resolve a child support dispute out-of-court through informal negotiation or ADR, the ideal result is a written document which finalizes what was agreed upon. This agreement is usually shown to a judge for final approval, to ensure that what the parents have agreed to also complies with state guidelines on child support. An informal court hearing may follow, during which the judge will ask some basic factual questions to make sure that each party understands the terms of the agreement.

As long as the judge is satisfied that the child support agreement was fairly negotiated, and that the terms do not contradict state guidelines, the agreement will almost always receive court approval. In most states, the agreement then becomes a binding court order or “decree,” and the parents or other parties to the agreement must adhere to it or face legal consequences. For example, if a child support settlement agreement has been converted into a court order, and the agreement is violated by a father who repeatedly fails to make support payments on time, the mother can go to court to enforce her rights to child support payments under the order, and the father will face additional fines or even jail time if he fails to meet his child support obligations under the order.

Free Consultation with a Utah 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 aggressively fight for 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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