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Child Support


Every parental rights and responsibilities order must include a child support order or a statement of why the court did not order child support.

Child support terminates on the child's eighteenth birthday or beyond if the child is still in high school, in which case it ends upon graduation or the child's nineteenth birthday, whichever occurs first.

The parent with primary residence typically receives child support from the other parent. Alternatively, if the parents provide substantially equal care, the higher income parent pays the lower income parent child support proportionate to the difference in their respective incomes.

The amount of child support is based on the parents' combined income and guidelines set by the state. Calculation of a parent's income is based on their gross income, not their net income. If a parent is voluntarily unemployed or under-employed, the court may "impute" income to that parent, using as a figure the income they could be earning rather than the income they are actually earning. 

Child support orders account for certain expenses, including the cost of health insurance for the children, child care expenses (for children under twelve), and extraordinary medical expenses for the children.

Calculation of child support is guided by court forms, such as child support affidavits and child support worksheets. The basic calculation of child support is done on the child support worksheet. The first step is to calculate “basic support” by determining the annual gross income of each parent, adding them together for a combined income, applying that figure to the guidelines (or child support table), and multiplying the guideline figure by the number of children. The next step is to calculate “total basic support” by adding to the basic support figure: child care costs, health insurance premiums, and extraordinary medical expenses. Next, the court divides the total basic support figure between parents in proportion to their respective gross incomes. Finally, the court subtracts the obligor's contributions to health insurance and child care to arrive at the child support obligation.

The calculation of child support is different where the parents have shared primary residence. Such calculations begin with the child support worksheet discussed above but then proceed to the supplemental worksheet. The first step on the supplemental worksheet is to determine the “enhanced support” figure, meaning "basic support” multiplied by 1.5. Next, the court divides the enhanced support figure between the parents in proportion to their respective gross incomes. The higher-income parent has a presumptive obligation to pay the lower-income parent the lower of: the difference between their proportionate share of enhanced support and the higher-income parent's proportionate share of “basic support.” After that, the calculation accounts for the parents' respective shares of the costs of child care, health insurance, and extraordinary medical expenses in proportion to their incomes. These are added or subtracted as appropriate.

However, the court may deviate from the child support guidelines in certain cases. A court finding that child support based on the guidelines would be "inequitable or unjust" due to certain criteria is sufficient to rebut the presumption that the child support guidelines apply.

  • The calculation based on shared primary residence would be unjust, inequitable or not in the child's best interest;
  • The number of children is greater than six;
  • The interrelation of the child support, property division, and spousal support;
  • The financial resources of each child;
  • The financial resources and needs of a party;
  • The standard of living each child would have enjoyed had the marriage continued;
  • The physical and emotional conditions of each child;
  • The educational needs of each child;
  • Available income and financial contributions of the domestic associate or current spouse of each party;
  • Other persons who are actually financially dependent on either party, including elderly, disabled, or infirm relatives; adult children pursuing post-secondary education; and other minor children who reside in the household;
  • The tax consequences if the obligor is awarded any tax benefits;
  • Special circumstances regarding a child twelve years or older requiring the primary residential care provider to continue to provide for employment-related day care;
  • An obligor's substantial costs for transportation for purposes of parent-and-child contact (costs must exceed 15 percent of yearly obligation); and
  • A court finding that application of the guidelines would be unjust, inappropriate or not in the child(ren)'s best interest. 

Child support orders can be modified after a divorce becomes final, based on a substantial change in circumstances. If a new child support calculation varies more than 15 percent from the existing child support order, that constitutes a substantial change in circumstances. But if three years or more have passed since the last child support order, then there is no need to demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances. 

Contact a Divorce Attorney Today

The divorce lawyers at the Law Offices of Dylan Boyd, in Portland, Maine, understand what is at stake with child support and will strive to protect the interests of you and your child(ren). 

Contact us today by using our online form or calling (207) 536-7147 to schedule a consultation and learn more.

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