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South Carolina Child Support Definitions

The court may adjust the minimum child support award, of either or both parent’s share of the minimum child support award, based upon the following considerations: Deviation from the guidelines should be the exception rather than the rule. When the court deviates, it must make written findings that clearly state the nature and extent of the variation from the guidelines. These Child Support Guidelines do not take into account the economic impact of the following factors which can be possible reasons for deviation:

(1) Educational expenses for the child(ren) or the spouse (i.e., those incurred for private, parochial, or trade schools, other secondary schools, or post-secondary education where there is tuition or related costs);
(2) Equitable distribution of property;
(3) Consumer debts;
(4) Families with more than six children;
(5) Unreimbursed extraordinary medical/dental expenses for the noncustodial or custodial parent;
(6) Mandatory deduction of retirement pensions and union fees;
(7) Child-related unreimbursed extraordinary medical expenses;
(8) Monthly fixed payments imposed by court or operation of law;
(9) Significant available income of the child(ren);
(10) Substantial disparity of income in which the noncustodial parent’s income is significantly less than the custodial parent’s income, thus making it financially impracticable to pay the amount the guidelines indicate the noncustodial parent should pay;
(11) Alimony. Because of their unique nature, lump sum, rehabilitative and reimbursement alimony may be considered by the court as a possible reason for deviation from these guidelines.
(12) Agreements Reached Between Parties.

DEFINITIONS:

(1) Gross Income. Gross income includes income from any source including salaries, wages, commissions, royalties, bonuses, rents (less allowable business expenses), dividends, severance pay,pensions, interest, trust income, annuities, capital gains, social security benefits (but not Supplemental Security Income), workers’ compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, disability insurance benefits, Veterans’ benefits and alimony, including alimony received as a result of another marriage and alimony which a party receives as a result of the current litigation. Unreported case income should also be included if it can be identified.

(a) The court may also take into account assets available to generate income for child support. For example, the court may determine the reasonable earning potential of any asset at its market value and assess against it the current treasury bill interest rate or some other similar appropriate method of computing income.
(b) In addition to determining potential earnings, the court should impute income to any non-income producing assets of either parent, if significant, other than a primary residence or personal property. Examples of such assets are vacation homes (if not maintained as rental property) and idle land. The current rate determined by the court is the rate at which income should be imputed to such nonperforming assets.

Gross income does not include:

(a) Benefits received from means-tested public assistance programs, such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Food Stamps and General Assistance;
(b) Income derived by other household members; and/or
(c) In-kind income; however, the court should count as income expense reimbursements or in-kind payments received by a parent from self- employment or operation of a business if they are significant and reduce personal living expenses, such as a company car, free housing, or reimbursed meals.

(2) Income From Self-Employment or Operation of a Business. For income from self-employment, proprietorship of a business, or ownership of a partnership or closely held corporation, gross income is defined as gross receipts minus ordinary and necessary expenses required for self-employment or business operation, including employer’s share of FICA. However, the court should exclude from those expenses amounts allowed by the Internal Revenue Service for accelerated depreciation or investment tax credits for purposes of the guidelines and add those amounts back in to determine gross income. in general, the court should carefully review income and expenses from self-employment or operation of a business to determine actual levels of gross income available to the parent to satisfy a child support obligation. As may be apparent, this amount may differ from a determination of business income for tax purposes.

(3) Potential Income. If the court finds that a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, it should calculate child support based on a determination of potential income which would otherwise ordinarily be available to the parent. If income is imputed to a custodial parent, the court may also impute reasonable day care expenses. Although Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and other means-tested public assistance benefits are not included in gross income, income may be imputed to these recipients. However, the court may take into account the presence of young children or handicapped children who must be cared for by the parent, necessitating the parent’s inability to work.

(a) The court may also wish to factor in considerations of rehabilitative alimony in order to enable the parent to become employed.
(b) In order to impute income to a parent who is unemployed or underemployed, the court should determine the employment potential and probable earnings level of the parent based on that parent’s recent work history, occupational qualifications, and prevailing job opportunities and earning levels in the community.

B. Monthly Alimony.
Any award of alimony between the parties should be taken into consideration by the court when utilizing these guidelines as a deduction from the payer spouse’s gross income, and as gross income received by the recipient spouse. Because of their unique nature, lump sum, rehabilitative, reimbursement, or any other alimony the court may award, may be considered by the court as a possible reason for deviation from these guidelines. The purpose of this adjustment is not to give priority to alimony or child support payments. The purpose of these adjustments is to recognize that each parent’s proportional share of total combined monthly income changes with the introduction of any alimony award between the parties and to provide for a sharing of the Total Combined Monthly Child Support Obligation based upon each parent’s actual percentage share of the total combined monthly income, taking into consideration the financial impact of any alimony award between them, rather than the parent’s share of the total combined monthly income as it existed before any alimony award. Accordingly, the court, in its discretion, may consider any modification or termination of any alimony award between the parties of a child support award made under these guidelines. This adjustment does not affect the Total Combined Monthly Child Support Obligation of both parents as determined under these guidelines, which may be determined before any determination on the issue of alimony, as the total combined monthly income of both parties will remain the same irrespective of any income shifting between the parents as the result of an alimony award.

C. Other Monthly Alimony or Child Support Paid.
Any previous or existing court orders requiring the payment of child support, alimony, or both, should be protected by any, subsequent child support order. Alimony actually paid as a result of another marriage or child support actually paid for the benefit of children other than those considered in this computation, to the extent such payment or payments are required by a previous or existing court order, should be deducted from gross income.

D. Other Children in the Home.
Either parent shall receive credit for additional natural or adopted children living in the home, but not for step-children, unless a court order established a legal responsibility. Using the income of the parent with the additional child(ren) in the home only, the basic child support obligation for the number of additional dependents living with that parent (from the Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations) is determined for that parent. This figure is multiplied by .75 and the resulting credit is subtracted from that parent’s gross income.

E. Basic Child Support Obligation.
The court can determine the basic child support obligation using the Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations. "Combined gross income" refers to the combined monthly gross incomes of the parents. Where combined gross income amounts fall between the amounts reflected in the Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations, the court is encouraged to extrapolate upwardly to set the basic award. The number of children refers to that number for whom the parents share support responsibility and for whom support is being sought.

F. Self Support Reserve.
A self support reserve allows a low-income noncustodial parent to retain a minimal amount of income before being assessed a full percentage of child support. This insures that the noncustodial parent has sufficient income available to maintain a minimum standard of living which does not affect negatively his or her earning capacity, incentive to continue working, and ability to provide for him or herself. These Guidelines incorporate a self support reserve of $500.00 per month. In order to safeguard the self support reserve in cases where the noncustodial parent’s income and corresponding number of children fall within the shaded area of the Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations, the support obligation must be calculated using the noncustodial parent’s income only. To include the custodial parent’s income in the calculation of such cases would reduce the noncustodial parent’s net income below the self support reserve.

G. Health Insurance.
The court shall consider provisions for adequate health insurance coverage for children in every child support order. Ordinarily, the court should require coverage by that parent who can obtain the most comprehensive coverage through an employer, or otherwise, at the most reasonable cost. If either parent carries health insurance for the child(ren) who is to receive support, the cost of the coverage should be added. If the employer provides some measure of coverage, only that amount actually paid by the employee or contributed by the employee should be added. Note that the portion of the health insurance premium which covers the children is the only expense that should be added. If this amount cannot be verified, the total cost of the premium should be divided by the total number of persons covered by the policy and then multiplied by the number of children in the support order. Whichever party is responsible for paying the health insurance premium will receive a credit. The guidelines are based on the assumption that the custodial parent will be responsible for up to $250.00 per year per child in uninsured medical expenses. Extraordinary medical expenses, not addressed in the guidelines, are defined as reasonable and necessary uninsured medical expenses in excess of $250.00 per year per child. Under this definition, what is "reasonable and necessary" - e.g. orthodontia and professional counseling - would be at the discretion of the court. Extraordinary unreimbursed medical expenses addressed by the court shall be divided in pro rate percentages based on the proportional share of combined monthly adjusted gross income.

H. Child Care Costs.
The cost of day care the parent incurs due to employment or the search for employment, net of the federal income tax credit for such day care, is to be added to the basic obligation. This is to encourage parents to work and generate income for themselves as well as their children. However, day care costs must be reasonable, not to exceed the level required to provide high quality care for children from a licensed provider. The value of the federal income tax credit for child care should be subtracted from the actual cost of day care to arrive at a net figure. However, lower income single heads of household do not incur enough tax liability to benefit from the federal tax credit for child care. Therefore, the federal tax credit should be deducted from the actual child care expenses only for parents with incomes high enough to realize at least three-quarters of the full benefit of the credit.

I. Age Adjustment.
Economic research suggests that expenditures on children increase during teenage years. Such research indicates that expenditures on children in the 12-17 age group are significantly higher than expenditures on children in the 0-11 age group. Given that childrearing expenditures are higher for older children, an issue in the development of guidelines is whether there should be age adjustments; that is, whether the guidelines should incorporate separate scales by age of the children. However, since these guidelines are based on economic data which represent estimates of total expenditures on child rearing up to age eighteen, except for child care and most health care costs, the need for separate scales has been eliminated.

J. Computation of Child Support.
The court can determine a total child support obligation by adding the basic child support obligation, health insurance premium (portion covering children), and work related child care costs. (1) The total child support obligation is divided between the parents in proportion to their income. Each parent’s proportional share of combined adjusted gross income must be calculated. Compute the obligation of each parent by multiplying each parent’s share of income by the total child support obligation, and give the necessary credit for adjustments to the basic combined child support obligation. (2) Although a monetary obligation is computed for each parent, the guidelines presume that the custodial parent will spend that parent’s share directly on the child in that parent’s custody. In cases of joint custody or split custody where both parents have responsibility of the child for a substantial portion of the time, there are provisions for adjustments.