What is included? What is excluded?
Most parents who pay child support to another parent frequently ask the following question? "What am I paying child support for exactly? This question displays common misconceptions as to what exactly child support covers, and how support is calculated.
This article addresses what type of expenses are included and excluded in the Connecticut Child Support Guideline.
CT Child Support Guidelines:
One way to understand child support is to read the Connecticut Child Support Guideline in detail. Not fun literature. The Guideline makes it clear that BOTH parents pay child support. The Child Support Guidelines provide the parents, and by extension, the Court an objective tool and process to apportion to the parents their respective shares of their child(ren)'s baseline “budget” for ongoing support when the parents no longer function as a single unit.
The Court takes a slice of the parents' combined net income and assigns a percentage of that net to each parent to meet the child(ren)'s core or basic needs. This total amount, I will refer to as “Child’s or Children’s Budget.” One can see this on the first page of the Connecticut Child Support Guideline on lines 17 and again on line 20, in two (2) columns, one column for the Mother, and the other for Father.
What does the Connecticut Child Support Guidelines Include or “should” include…
This child support is contingent on the type of physical custody arrangement, the child(ren)'s best interests, and other factors. For example, if the child(ren) reside primarily with one of the parents (e.g., enrolls in the school district where that primary physical custodial parent resides), the “non-custodial” parent pays his/her percentage share of the child's total budgeted support to the “custodial” parent.
Both Parents pay Child Support
It is incorrect to assume that the custodial parent does not have to pay child support. By paying child support, the “non-custodial” parent merely adds her/his percentage share of the total to what the custodial parent is required to pay. Hence, the child gets 100% of the child's budget. Failing to pay child support, implies that the child has less than the full support (i.e., less than 100% of the budget). Based on this concept, it may be helpful to remember that the parents cannot waive child support because the money belongs to the child(ren), not the parent receiving child support.
With or without a court order, parents already must pay child support to the proverbial “Child’s or Children’s Budget.”
Above, I have referred to the Net level of incomes of the spouses. The courts/law /statutes allow us to take into consideration taxes, cost of medical insurance premiums and on occasion, mandatory union dues, mandatory contributions to retirement. Connecticut General Statute 46b-215(a) set the standard for determining child support, arrears and deviation criteria. The formula may be a bit complicated to calculate correctly due to factors such as overtime, bonuses, taxation post-divorce, cost of health insurance post-divorce based on whom covers the children, possible deviations the family may consider, etc. An experienced Divorce Mediator/Attorney can calculate the Connecticut Child Support correctly.
Again, the parent who pays child support pays hers/his amount to the “Child’s Budget.” This child support may be paid to the other parent as the means to provide for the child. It is not a “fee” paid to the custodial parent.
It is not a means of punishing imposing “hardships” on the noncustodial parent. However, because child support compels the transfer of resources (i.e., money) from one parent to the other, it is often incorrectly perceived to distress the finances of the parent who is paying the support. Again, that misconception should evaporate when parents understand that in their ideal parenting lives, both parents contribute to the care of their child(ren) irrespective on how their division of parental labor was when they functioned as one unit.
The Child’s Budget
Another important point for parents to know is that child support or the Guideline “Child’s Budget” covers ONLY the necessities like food, clothing, and shelter – “room and board.”
In addition to the basic support, on the second page of the guideline, a formula is provided, on a percentage (%) basis for the obligation of each parent to pay for uninsured or unreimbursed medical expenses for the child as well as for work-related daycare expenses.
A parent who pays her/his share of child support to the other parent - or, more correctly stated to the Child’s Budget – and pays his/her share of uninsured medical expenses and daycare, does not have any additional financial obligation to his/her child.
The Connecticut Child Support Guidelines shortfall
HOWEVER, here are some examples of items a child may need as she/he grows up and such items are unfortunately NOT covered by the Connecticut Child Support Guideline. Each child is unique, and each child has different needs, goals, and desires.
Basic school supplies like:
- Pencils and Paper,
- School Uniforms Or School Clothes,
- Sporting Or Music Equipment Like Shin Guards And Violins,
- Textbooks Or Required Materials,
- Tuition Fees For Private School,
- Tutor Costs,
- New Technology, Like Computers Or Phones,
- College Application Costs,
- SSAT Or SAT Preparation Fees,
- Prom Dresses,
- “Walking Around” Money For Ben And Jerrys Or Dunkin Donuts,
- Cell Phone Again Because They Lost The First And Second One,
- New Stapler…
...You Get The Picture.
None of these typical expenses are covered by the child support guideline, or “Child Budget,” even though some of these items or expenses may be required to raise a child. It is perfectly acceptable for a parent to use support funds to pay for these additional items, however, often, the above proverbial “Child Budget” provided by the Child Support Guideline is NOT sufficient to cover the child/children’s total needs.
The greater majority of amicable, reasonable parents who divorce or separate in Connecticut through the divorce mediation or collaborative process understand the Connecticut Child Support Guidelines shortfall. Consequently, the parents jointly create plans to address the overall specific needs of each child. Some parents, even go further, and re-address this budget on an annual, bi-annual or on an as-needed basis, to address the funds needed for the child, rather than perpetuating a controversial, conflictual financial surprise.
These parents take a detailed, futuristic look at the Child Support Guideline by constructing a sustainable “child budget” that includes what the child needs to grow up with two loving and caring parents. Lucky kids!