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Iíve heard that judges make up the child support obligation.

This is absolutely untrue. Years ago the amount of child support was subject to a judgeís discretion, but today all states have "child support guidelines" that prescribe the appropriate amount and how to calculate it.

A judge has some leeway in deviating from the child support guidelines, but this deviation must be noted, and a reason for the deviation must be included in the record of the child support hearing. An unsupported deviation can be grounds for appealing the child support award.

The following are sample reasons the judge may deviate from the existing child support guidelines:

EXCEPTIONAL CIRCUMSTANCES presented to the Court or Hearings Officer may warrant a departure from the guidelines’ computation. If you believe exceptional circumstances apply to your case, complete the Exceptional Circumstance Declaration form that can be obtained from your county court house.

The Court or hearing officer may order child support that deviates (varies) from the Guidelines only if exceptional circumstances warrant
such deviation, pursuant to HRS Sections 576D-7 and 576E-15.

In such cases, the court or hearings officer shall make oral findings of fact on the record at the hearing or prepare written findings of fact regarding the exceptional circumstances.

Although it is impossible to predict all exceptional circumstances that warrant departure, the following examples provide some guidance:

Payments to or for the benefit of the subject child or the subject child’s other parent where obligated by law, including extraordinary medical needs.

Extraordinary needs of the subject child or the subject child’s other parent, e.g., special educational and/or housing needs for a physically or emotionally disabled child.

Other child support obligations of a parent that render him/her unable to pay the Guideline’s level of child support for the subject child(ren).

A monthly income that would result in a computation higher than the children’s reasonable needs.

Private education expenses are considered as part of SOLA unless such expenses are so extraordinary that SOLA cannot adequately cover these expenses or if the child has been in private school with the agreement of the parties prior to separation.

Ordinarily, the existence of heavy debts will not constitute exceptional circumstances.

Total monthly child support obligation is greater than 70% of the parent’s net income.


The child support guidelines were put in place by the states as a result of encouragement by the federal government to the states. The federal government enforced this encouragement by threatening to withhold federal contributions to state welfare funds unless the states enacted guidelines.