States' Treatment of High and Low Income Parents in Making Child Support Determinations

5/14/2013

parent and child holding handsStates are required to establish one set of guidelines (by law or judicial or administrative action) for setting and modifying child support award amounts. Child support guidelines are based on financial information from one or both parents.  Often adjustments are necessary when one or both parents have a very high or very low income.

States’ treatment of cases where the income of the parent(s) exceeds the highest amount listed in the guidelines varies. Some states use the highest amount in the guideline or create a specific formula for high income cases. Others allow the decision-maker to use his or her discretion in setting an amount that meets the needs of the child and the parent’s ability to provide support.

In cases where a parent has a very low income, states use three main approaches. Some establish a minimum presumptive amount; others set a minimum mandatory amount; and some states allow the discretion of the decision-making authority to determine ability to pay.

The following table describes each state’s policy in establish support orders for high and low income parents.

50-State Table

State

Low Income

High Income

 

Provision

Income Level

Provision

Income Level

Alabama

Combined adjusted gross income below lower-most levels of the schedule

Judicial discretion.

Combined adjusted gross income exceeds uppermost levels of schedule

Judicial discretion.

Alaska

Below poverty level as set forth in the federal register

Court may deviate, but may not order support less than $50 per month.

Greater than $100,000 per year

Court should use $84,000 as income, and increase the support above the amount calculated using the $100,000 figure only if it is just and proper.

Arizona

Less than $750 per month

Support shall be based on the facts of the individual case and shall be consistent with theory of the Guidelines and factors set forth in Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 25-320.

Greater than $20,000 per month

Support shall be based on the facts of the individual case and shall be consistent with theory of the gGuidelines and factors set forth in Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 25-320.

Arkansas

 

No provision for low income.

Exceeds income amount on chart

Trial court shall disregard the chart and apply different percentages.

California

Net disposable income less than $1,000 per month

Court shall rule on whether a low-income adjustment shall be made.

Extraordinarily high income and amount determined under formula would exceed needs of children

Court may deviate from the formula provided.

Colorado

Combined monthly adjusted gross income less than $1,100

Judicial discretion, although the required payment shall not be less than $50 per month for one child, $70 per month for two children, $90 per month for three children, $110 per month for four children, $130 per month for five children, and $150 per month for six or more children.

Combined monthly adjusted gross income of more than $30,000

Judicial discretion. Ownership by parent of substantial non-income-producing asset is deviation factor.

Connecticut

Certain low-income levels

Only obligor's income is considered; low income is a deviation factor.

Above $4,000 weekly income

Court may fashion an appropriate amount of support, provided the amount of support prescribed at the $4,000 level is presumed to be the minimum order. Financial resources available to the parent, including non-income-producing assets, are deviation factors.

Delaware

 

In no event may a child support order be less than $78 per month for one child, and $52 for each additional child.

High income

Basic amount plus a particular percentage applied.

District of Columbia

Less than $7,500 per year

Obligor may retain a self-support reserve of 133% of the poverty line.

Combined income exceeds $240,000 per year

Guidelines do not apply; $240,000 award is a floor.

Florida

Combined monthly available income less than amount in chart.

Court shall determine support on a case-by-case basis.

Combined monthly available income greater than amount in chart.

Obligation shall be the minimum amount of support provided by the guidelines, plus a percentage based on the number of children whose support is being determined.

Georgia

Annual gross income at or below $1,850 per month

Low income is a deviation factor.

Combined adjusted income exceeds $30,000 per month.

High income is a deviation factor.

Hawaii

Total monthly child support obligation greater than 70% of available income for primary support.

Exceptional circumstance warranting deviation, but minimum child support is $50 per month per child.

Total monthly income that would result in computation higher than reasonable needs of children.

Exceptional circumstance warranting deviation.

Idaho

Low income

Rebuttable presumption that minimum amount of support should be $50 per month.

Combined income over $300,000

Court shall award support on a case-by-case basis.

Illinois

Low income

Low income is a deviation factor.

High income

High income is a deviation factor

Indiana

Combined weekly adjusted income of less than $100

Court shall determine support on a case-by-case basis, with support in a range of $25 to $50 per week.

Combined weekly adjusted income of $10,000

Formula provided.

Iowa

Less than $500 per month

Appropriate support shall be $50 per month for one or two children and $75 per month for three or more children.

$6,001 per month or higher

Support is determined on a case-by-case basis, but not less than the dollar amount as provided for in the guidelines for a noncustodial parent with a monthly net income of $6,000.

Kansas

Combined gross monthly income below poverty level

Chart is provided, with a $7 minimum per child.

Combined income exceeds highest amount shown on schedules

Court should exercise its discretion by considering what amount of child support should be set in addition to the highest amount on the schedule. Suggested formula is provided.

Kentucky

Low income

Minimum of $60 for low income.

Income in excess of guidelines

Income in excess of the guidelines is a deviation factor.

Louisiana

Combined adjusted gross income less than lowest sum shown on schedule

Court shall determine an amount of support based on the facts of the case.

Combined adjusted gross income exceeds highest level specified in schedule

Court shall use its discretion in setting the amount of the basic obligation.

Maine

Annual gross income less than poverty level

Support shall not be more than 10% of weekly gross income.

Combined annual gross income exceeds $240,000

Child support table is inapplicable except that the basic weekly support entitlement shall not be less than that set forth in the table fo ra combiend annual gross income of $240,000.

Maryland

Combined adjusted income less than $500 per month.

Support shall be $20 to $50, based on resources of the parent.

Combined income exceeds the highest level in the chart.

Judicial discretion.

Massachusetts

Less than $100 per week.

Minimum order of $80 per month is suggested.

Combined gross income of the parties exceeds $135,000, or gross income of the noncustodial parent exceeds $100,000

Court should award support at the $100,000/$135,000 level as a minimum presumptive amount.

Michigan

Less than $851 per month.

10% of income.

Income exceeds income categories provided

Support is calculated by the application of certain percentages.

Minnesota

Less than excess of 120% of federal poverty guideline.

Basic obligation is $50 for once child.

Combined income in excess of income limit.

Child support obligation must be the same dollar amount as provided at the income limit, unless the court finds a substantial need for additional support. Earnings, income, and resources of both parents are deviation factors.

Mississippi

Adjusted gross income less than $10,000.

Court shall make a written finding in the record as to whether or not the application of the guidelines is reasonable.

Adjusted gross income of more than $100,000.

Court shall make a written finding in the record as to whether or not the application of the guidelines is reasonable.

Missouri

 

Court may deviate upon good cause.

 

Case law provides that the trial court is to presume that the highest figure provided in the chart at the highest income level of $20,000 per month is the correct amount of support. Court may deviate upon good cause.

Montana

 

Minimum support obligation is calculated by special formula.

High income

High income is a deviation factor.

Nebraska

Very low income.

Recommended minimum support of $50. Parent's support, child care, and health care obligatoin shall not reduce net monthly income below $687.

Total net income exceeds $15,000 monthly.

Child support for amounts in excess of $15,000 monthly may be more but shall not be less than the amount that would be computed using the $15,000 monthly income unless other permissible deviations exist.

Nevada

 

Notwithstanding the formulas provided, the minimum support order shall be $100 per month per child, unless court makes written findings for a deviation.

Monthly gross income of $14,583 or more.

Presumptive maximum award is $800 per month.

New Hampshire

Low income.

Court shall order a minimum support order of $50 per month. Significantly low income is a deviation factor.

Significantly high income.

Significantly high income is a deviation factor.

New Jersey

Net income of $160 per week or less.

Guidelines do not apply, but the court must order at least $5 per week.

Combined income of $150,800.

Court shall apply the guidelines up to that amount, and supplement the award with a discretionary amount based on the remaining family income. Extrapolation is expressly forbidden.

New Mexico

Gross monthly income less than $600.

Court shall determine on a case-by-case basis, with a minimum support order of $100. Where support order is more than 40% of gross income, there is a presumption in favor of deviation.

Gross monthly income greater than $8,300.

Certain percentages shall be applied depending on the number of children.

New York

Amount awarded would reduce noncustodial parent's income below poverty level.

Support shall be $25 or $50, depending on the self-support reserve and poverty level.

Combined parental income exceeds the dollar amount set forth in the guidelines.

Court shall determine the amount of support for the amount of the combined income in excess of such dollar amount by consideration of the factors set forth in the deviation paragraph and/or the support percentage.

North Carolina

Adjusted gross income of less $999.

Guidelines require the establishment, absent a reason for a deviation, of a minimum order of $50.

Combined parental income above $300,000.

Child support is determined on a case-by-case basis, provided that the amount of support awarded may not be lower than the maximum basic child support obligation shown in the schedule.

North Dakota

Net monthly income $100 or less.

Court shall establish a minimum support obligation on a case-by-case basis.

Net monthly income over $10,000.

Chart provides support. High income is a deviation factor.

Ohio

Combined gross income less than $6,600 per year.

Support is determined on a case-by-case basis.

Combined gross income greater than $150,000 per year.

Court shall determine support on a case-by-case basis, provided that the court shall compute a bsic combined obligation that is the same amount that would have been computed under the schedule for a combined income of $150,000.

Oklahoma

Gross monthly income at poverty level, and obligor uses Earned Income Credit.

Only the income of the obligor is used.

Monthly income exceeds $15,000.

Child support shall be that amount computed for a monthly income of $15,000 plus such additional amount as the court may determine.

Oregon

At or below federal poverty income level.

Low-income adjustment may be available.

Combined adjusted gross income exceeding $30,000 per month.

Presumed basic support obligations shall be as for parents with combined adjusted gross income of $15,000.  A basic child support obligation in excess of this level may be demonstrated for those reasons set forth in the deviation criteria section.

Pennsylvania

Net income below $867 per month.

Minimal support order entered on consideration of obligor's reasonable living expenses.

Joint monthly net income exceeds $30,000.

Amount of support awarded is determined by a formula.

Rhode Island

Combined adjusted gross income of less than $500 per month.

Support is determined on case-by-case basis, ranging from $20 to $50 per month.

Combined monthly adjusted gross income level above $20,000 per month.

The presumptive award is calculated by the percentage used at the $20,000 level. 

South Carolina

Combined monthly gross income less than $750.

Support shall be determined on a case-by-case basis, with a minimum order of $100 per month.

Combined gross income greater than $240,000 per year.

Courts should determine child support on a case-by-case basis.

South Dakota

 

Minimum obligation of $43 is established on the chart, but the court may deviate due to financial condition of the parties.

Combined net income above schedule.

Child support obligation shall be established at an appropriate level, taking into account the actual needs and standard of living of the child.

Tennessee

 

Minimum basic child support obligation is $100 per month.

 

No provision for high income.

Texas

 

Ability of parents to contribute to support of child and financial resources available are deviation factors. In no even may the obligor be required to pay more than an amount equal to 100% of the proven needs of the child.

Net resources exceed $7,500 per month.

Court shall presumptively apply the percentage guidelines to the first $6,000, and may order additional support.  In no event may the obligor be required to pay more than an amount equal to 100% of the proven needs of the child.

Utah

Monthly adjusted gross income $649 or less.

Support shall be calculated on a case-by-case basis, but support award shall not be less than $20.

Combined adjusted gross income exceeds the highest level specified in the table.

An appropriate and just support amount shall be ordered on a case-by-case basis, but the amount ordered may not be less than the highest level specified in the table for the number of children due support. The standard of living, situation of the parties, and relative wealth and income of the parties are listed as a deviation factors.

Vermont

Less than lowest income figure or less than self-support reserve.

Court shall use its discretion in determining support, and shall require support in a nominal amount.

Combined available income exceeds the uppermost levels of support adopted in the guideline.

The court may use its discretion in determining child support.

Virginia

 

Minimum order of $65 shall be ordered, except for certain classes of persons. Financial resources and needs of parents are considered deviation factors.

Combined gross monthly exceeds $35,000 per month.

A percentage of gross monthly income will apply to monthly combined gross income over $35,000

Washington

Income less than $600 per month.

Obligation is based on the resources and living expenses of each household. Minimum support shall not be less than $25 per child, except when permitted by R.C.W. 26.19.065(2).

Combined net income exceeds $7,000.

Court may set support at an advisory amount of support set for combined monthly net incomes between $5,000 and $7,000 or the court may exceed the advisory amount of support set for combined monthly net incomes of $7,000 upon written findings of fact.

West Virginia

Combined adjusted gross monthly income under $550.

Guidelines do not apply, but the support obligation shall be $50 per month or an amount determined by court. Low income is listed as a deviation factor.

Combined adjusted gross monthly income over $15,000.

Guidelines do not apply, but the support award shall not be less than that provided at the $15,000 per month level, plus an amount determined by a formula applied to the excess over $15,000.

Wisconsin

Low income.

Deviation factor from Percentage of Income calculation.

High income.

Deviation factor from Percentage of Income calculation.

Wyoming

Combined income less than $833 per month.

Support obligation is 25% of net income, but in no event shall the support obligation be less than $50 per month.

   

Source: Office of Child Support Enforcement; additional sources are cited and linked when available.


PLEASE NOTE: The National Conference of State Legislatures is an organization serving state legislators and their staff. We cannot offer legal advice or assistance with individual cases, but we do try to answer questions on general topics.

About This NCSL Project

NCSL staff in D.C. and Denver can provide comprehensive, thorough, and timely information on critical child support policy issues. We provide services to legislators and staff working to improve state policies affecting children and their families. NCSL's online clearinghouse for state legislators includes resources on child support policy, financing, laws, research and promising practices. Technical assistance visits to states are available to any state legislature that would like training or assistance related to this topic.

The Denver-based child support project staff focuses on state policy, tracking legislation and providing research and policy analysis, consultation, and technical assistance specifically geared to the legislative audience. Denver staff can be reached at (303) 364-7700 or cyf-info@ncsl.org.

NCSL staff in Washington, D.C. track and analyze federal legislation and policy and represent state legislatures on child support issues before Congress and the Administration. Staff in D.C. can be reached at (202) 624-5400 or cyf-info@ncsl.org.

The child support project and D.C. human services staff receive guidance and support from NCSL's Standing Committee on Health & Human Services.

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