By using support schedules, overburdened court systems are able to quickly make some fairly accurate support order to ensure to the extent possible there is food on the table and the most important bills are being paid while facts are gathered in preparation for settlement or trial. The schedules influence every support decision, and that’s not entirely wrong. They establish the average support order for average people under average circumstances. If that’s where you end up, that’s not bad: You don’t have any extraordinary problems.
The very existence of the schedules and the courtsí adherence to them keeps a lot of temporary support hearings out of court. The inevitable result based on the schedules encourages parties to reach and submit reasonable temporary support agreements to the court for approval. Spouses, especially represented spouses who know within a few dollars what temporary support the court will order, can save considerable expense.
Federally mandated child support schedules regulate the courtís calculation of child support, both temporary and permanent. While these schedules have the look of inevitability of federal income tax tables, they are also simply based on a formula that can only have effect when applied to the data that you bring to the courtís attention. Have all the current income and expense figures for both you and your spouse. Use them to show the court the proper amount that should be ordered taking into consideration all relevant facts.
Computer programs have been written for use in some states, which incorporate the support schedules or the mathematical formula on which that stateís schedule is based. If the schedule is simple in your state, the computer program may not be that helpful. In other states, though, with more complex support calculations, some of these programs are particularly helpful in evaluating different support proposals for purposes of settlement. Some of these programs take into account credits, offsets, hardship deductions and adjustments authorized by the law of that state.
You may have been subjected to a temporary support order, pulled off a support schedule based on income only, which has now become the baseline the court may look at if so inclined and directed. The support schedules are merely a crude way to shift from a one-household to a two-household budget; yet, your ability to live on this amount, if you are the receiving spouse, is taken for granted as you do so month after month. Your ability to pay this amount is assumed if you send the check month after month.
Permanent support orders are intended to take all facts into account. You were promised that, whether stated or not, when a statistically correct temporary order was imposed upon you. While your court will attempt to do this, it is your burden to bring the relevant facts to the courtís attention.
The child support schedule dictates a presumed amount for child support, to be changed only when a factors such as hardship is proven, but never to your child’s detriment. The court may begin its resolution of spousal support from the schedule. The temporary order you have lived with for months is right there in your file, in the trial briefs and on the judge’s mind you or your spouse someone obtained an order sealing prior support orders from view during trial.
The fundamental support criteria are the ability to pay, and the need for, support. Schedules don’t measure need, they assume a standard need. Even that assumption is questionable, especially if an urban schedule is applied in a rural area. For example, the cost of housing, alone, in the city may exceed the total cost of living in the country. Because statewide schedules are often used, we’ll have to look at the ways to make adjustments to it.
Your court had the power to make limited adjustments when it set your temporary support. The result was probably a standard order, with adjustments left for lateróagain, whether stated or implied. You are now at "later" and have the unspoken burden of changing the temporary order.
A clear break with the past, such as selling the family home, gets everyone thinking from the ground up. The natural tendency will be to think in terms of adjustments to the temporary orders taken from the schedule, an inclination you must either take advantage of, or overcome. Invest your time wisely now in gathering and presenting facts favorable to you and your efforts will pay dividends year after year.