High Income Cases
What you need to know.
HIGH INCOME CASES REQUIRE SPECIAL ATTENTION
Child support cases where one parent's income, or the combined parental income, is above average, is considered high income. These special cases require individual attention and case by case study to achieve a fair and just award. This cannot be acquired with over-simplistic, general, inaccurate state guidelines.
GENERAL GUIDELINES CREATE ERRATIC RESULTS
Every state has their own guidelines, published by their state supreme courts, on how they calculate child support. The majority of guidelines currently in use utilize the Income-Shares or Percentage-of-Income formulas.
These guidelines are designed to make calculations quick and easy but usually provide irregular results compared to more complete models of post divorce family situations and actual calculated costs.
The Income-Shares method, currently used in more states than any other formula, is not based on the expenses or needs of the parents or child. It is based on indirect estimates derived from the income of the parents. It was developed as an income equivalence measure. It was never devised or intended to evaluate the cost of rearing children.
The Income-Shares method is far from perfect. A better formula has not been developed, however, so it just keeps on getting used.
Unfortunately, when it comes to handling high income cases, its arbitrary nature is even more inadequate. The presumptive formula applies to all income and does not take into consideration actual child costs or an income ceiling. This reduces the chances of the child support award being fair and just. In these instances, your lawyer might consider an alternative argument pre-trial or in court based on specific cost analysis and factual reasoning.
WHY DON'T STANDARD CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES CONSIDER THE CHILD'S EXPENSES?
Good question. The simple answer is because no one has yet to figure out a formula that can be used across the board for most families. Predicting the expenditures of individual members of households is difficult. Everyone has wide differences in spending habits.
It would be difficult to have uniform and consistent results if the courts looked at spending. For example, if a custodial parent spends $75 for a sweater, the non-custodial parent might object that a sweater can be purchased for $30. Which price is fair and reasonable? How do you incorporate maintaining the child's standard of living to a practical extent?
Now, instead of just a sweater, consider the overall cost of rearing a child. While the non-custodial parent might quote prices that are cheaper than what the family would normally spend, the custodial parent might temporarily adjust his/her spending habits to win a higher award. A judge would have to determine which cost is too low and which is too high. This is not the judge's field of expertise.
Judges prefer guidance on what is “reasonable” or “normal”. But “normal” cannot be defined in a consistent formula to be used by everyone. Whenever “normal” is defined, it is discovered that many families do not fit the definition. Therefore, researching case by case makes more sense. The ability to establish fairness in individual cases is crucial to fair treatment in general.
AWARDS THAT ARE JUST AND APPROPRIATE
To determine a just and appropriate amount of child support in these individual circumstances there are a few factors to examine:
The children’s actual needs.
That particular family’s circumstances.
Parents’ specific choices need to be considered in the calculations.
That kind of research, however, takes a lot of time and effort to produce. Who is going to do it? Who is qualified to make those decisions, and by what means?
The complexity of computing expenditures is the reason standard guideline tables were created based on income. The current system avoids the complications of figuring out what the “reasonable” expenses are for each family. To do that they would have to go line by line, item by item, case by case.
Presently, item by item is the only way to calculate honest, accurate results. That is what Michelle does. She is the expert with the experience and knowledge of what the reasonable expenditures are for children in high income families. She can offer sound guidance in court. She has a highly efficient, extensive process that computes costs that are fair for both parties.
Every state has different classifications for what they consider “high income.” Interestingly, almost every state also allows for deviation from their traditional guidelines. They allow child support to be determined on a case-by-case basis. So arm yourself with indisputable evidence and real cost calculations! It can only help increase your chances of acquiring a just and appropriate award.
AWARDS THAT ARE UNJUST AND INAPPROPRIATE
Unfortunately, when there is a lot of money at stake, sometimes things get ugly. There are instances when the recipient parent of the award might argue for awards that exceed the actual costs or needs of the child. Many times it is an attempt to include a margin of alimony or spousal support in the child support award.
Those are separate awards, however, with separate judgments. Those awards should only be made in cases where it is appropriate, not in the guise of child support. We want to ensure that your child support money is for the support and welfare of your children, not for the enrichment of either parent.
If you are a high income, non-custodial parent make sure you have a plan that includes proper legal argument (both statutory and case law). You'll also want solid supporting economic and expense exhibits. Otherwise, you are at high risk of having to pay an award in excess of your child’s needs. You should discuss this with your legal team.
Lawyers who handle child support cases are invited to consult with us on approaches for their clients.
Click here to see how each jurisdiction in the United States establishes their guideline support amount in high income cases.