Archive | July, 2012

Do I Need a Child Support Calculation?

If you’re asking whether you need a child support calculation, the answer is probably yes. There are a lot of reasons people get child support calculations: divorce, remarriage, custody disputes, and even simple curiosity. Whatever your need, in your interested in accurate online calculation of Montana Child Support, we are the only provider. Other site promise online calculations, but they don’t follow Montana law and just create a guess based on averages across the country.

But, if you need a Montana child support calculation, you probably need an accurate one. That’s where we come in. But how do you know if you need one? Well, if you’re involved with any court case that involves custody of your children, you probably need one. Montana law requires that a complete child support calculation be filed with every divorce case. If you have a lawyer, she probably has you covered (maybe with our software). But if you’re representing yourself, you’ll need to find another way to get the calculation. You can use the form available from the CSED website to do the calculation yourself, and that’s a great option. But, some people prefer an automated solution – so that’s what we offer.

Like a divorce, if you’re involved in a child custody dispute, the Court is going to require that child support be calculated as part of the process. If you’re representing yourself, you can use our site to generate the necessary paperwork.

But not everyone who uses our site is involved in a court case. Many are just curious.  They either are already receiving some child support or are entitled to receive some. And they want to know the bottom line. That want to know whether it’s worth the time, hassle and money to pursue a change. Within seconds of completing the input forms, you’ll know what your calculation looks like. And you can make as many calculations as you want.

Case Study: Maggie Clark

Maggie needed to calculate child support. She’s been separated from her child’s father for a few years, but never went through the work of establishing child support because she wasn’t sure if it would be worth it. A few of her friends told her there wasn’t much money in it, and she believed them.

But as the economy got worse, a little help sounded better and better. Ultimately, she found us and discovered she was entitled to quite a bit of money from the father so she pursued the process and now her child’s father is paying his fair share.

Here’s what Maggie had to say:

I’d gone to the state website, and found the form for the calculation, but every time I looked at it my eyes glazed over and it never got finished. Once or twice I even got through the first page. But that was as far as it ever got. I’m not terrible at math, but I don’t love it either.

Then I found the online child support calculator and everything changed. I entered a few numbers and within seconds had a completed calculation. The form was ready to file.

I’d looked at a few other online calculators, but they were generic and didn’t actually have anything to do with Montana’s requirements. This was different. This was exactly what I needed, ready to go.

Once I had that first calculation, I started to wonder if some changes would effect the bottom line much. So I just made a couple more calculations and printed those off too. I took the most accurate one and used that to start my child support case. Now I’m getting a monthly check from my ex that helps pay for all the things  he should have been helping with all along. Best money I ever spent.

Child Support and Out of State Parents

One common problem in child support for parents in Montana is that the other parent has left the state. This is obviously compounded when the other parent wants nothing to do with the child. Under Montana law, their lack of involvement doesn’t change the requirement that they contribute financially to raising the child. But how do you go about getting them involved in a court case. First of all, contact a good child support attorney. You need to know how the law applies to your specific situation, and only a Montana lawyer can help you with that.

Luckily, the law is probably on your side. Montana Code Annotated, 40-4-210 is the state law that provides for child support jurisdiction. It says that in a case to establish or modify a child support order, you can bring the other parent in to the case in a number of different situations. The first involves a case where the parent lives in Montana and can be served in a traditional manner. The second situation involves the other parent consenting to a Montana action. The third allows a Montana District Court to hear the case if the other parent has resided with the child in Montana. The fourth involves the child being adopted in Montana when at least one parent was a resident. The fifth applies if the other parent resided in the state while the child was gestating and provided pre-natal expenses. The sixth scenario involves the child living in Montana because of the wishes of the parent who does not live here. So imagine a case where a husband moves his wife and child to Montana ahead of him, but then never arrives. They would be here at his direction, so Montana could establish child support. The seventh way to establish child support jurisdiction in Montana is if the child was conceived in Montana. And the final part of the law is a catch-all provision that states “there is any other basis consistent with the constitutions of this state and the United States for the exercise of the personal jurisdiction.”

The same law also allows Montana to enforce the terms of an out of state child support order, and requires to follow the law of the issuing state in doing so. Thankfully, Montana believes that child support is vital to raising children and provides a number of different ways to go about getting that accomplished.

Montana Child Support Guidelines

Although Montana law establishes that there should be child support calculations, it doesn’t actually describe how the calculation will work. Instead, it delegates that responsibility to the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS). The department created the formula that we refer to as a child support calculation and maintains the forms which Courts rely on in reviewing the calculations. It is this calculation and those forms that we provide to you through our site. Unlike other web sites out there promising Montana child support calculations, actually uses the DPHHS guidelines and forms creating a calculation in line with what Courts and other governmental agencies expect out of a child support calculation.

The amount determined by a child support calculation is presumptively correct. Courts can deviate from it, but they need to have a good reason for doing it. But, like any calculation – the result is only as good as the variables you feed in to it. Whether you use the forms provided by DPHHS and do the hard math yourself, or use our program, the end result is only going to be as accurate as the numbers you start with. The guidelines ask for a huge amount of data focusing primarily on income and child related expenses of both parents. Information about the kids, with whom they spend their time, and some other information is also collected. Just like everything else, separated parents are known to fight about what numbers are correct to use. That’s why the more sure you can be of the numbers you start with, the more likely your final calculation is to hold up.

The guidelines are a powerful tool and required for any divorce, child custody, or child support modification action in Montana. For years, lawyers have had access to a program they used to determine these figures quickly and easily for clients. Our site offers that same ability to the public for the first time. With constant updates, you can be sure that your calculation reflects the latest guidelines from DPHHS – so whether you’re just considering taking action or are already involved in a case, sign up now to get the information you need.

Modifying Child Support in Montana

Child Support in Montana, when established as part of divorce, only when there is “a showing of changed circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the terms [of the decree] unconscionable.” If both parties give their written consent then this isn’t necessary however. This goes back to the reality that things change in life. A person’s situation and circumstances at the time they get divorced can be very different five or ten years later. People get fired, find new jobs, develop health problems, retire, the list goes on and on. And Montana child support law tries to recognize this by allowing for child support calculations to be modified when major changes happen.

But, the changes have to be substantial, meaning major, and continuing, meaning not temporary. If you’re a gardener, and fall and break your arm so you can’t work for a few months, that could be a major change to your income. But once the arm heals, presumably, you’ll go back to work and things will return to normal. The Court isn’t interested in modifying child support in situations like that because then they’ll just have to do it again in a few months when your arm heals. That’s why there’s the continuing requirement.

The final requirement is unconscionability. If we’ve got a major and permanent change, the last thing that needs to be shown is that the change produces a situation where the existing child support calculation is unconscionable. Black’s law dictionary defines unconscionability as extreme unfairness. To be honest, it’s a bit of a moving target and sometimes hard to predict. But if it makes the judge sit back and say, “wow, that’s nor fair,” you’ve probably met the burden.

Remember, this is just the standard to get you to the table. If you want to modify a child support amount set in a divorce case, you need to show that there are changed circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the divorce decree’s calculations unconscionable. Once you’ve done that, then the Court can consider modifying child support. That’s when you start getting in to how it should be modified and whose child support calculation is the best.

Retroactive Child Support in Montana

There are two types of retroactive child support that can be awarded in Montana. The first is the initial award of child support. In the case of a marriage, the Montana Supreme Court has ruled that District Courts can award retroactive child support back to the separation of the parties. So, once the child support payment amount is determined, the Court can require the paying party to make up for all the time since the separation they he or she has not been paying. This can amount to a great deal of money when you consider that some divorce cases go on for years and years.

For the parent receiving the payments, this can be a good thing. For the parent placed in a position of needing to come up with this money, it can be devastating. This just enforces the need for accurate child support calculations early on in the proceedings. Although the District Court has the ultimate authority on what the amount will be, the law requires the Court have good reason to depart from the result created by the guidelines. Knowing what your child support amount will be early on can make a huge difference.

The second type of retroactive child support payments comes from child support modification actions. As time goes on, things change. Income and expenses included. So what was a fair child support calculation five years ago may not longer reflect reality. Montana law doesn’t require that you be stuck with a calculation and allows a legal action to change it. If you’re interested in this, you should contact a Montana child support attorney to discuss your case.

The law allows these modifications to be retroactive, but to a more limited extent than what we discussed earlier. In this types of cases, the modification can only be retroactive to the time when the other parent received notice of the proposed modification. Generally, this is a much shorter time period than between separation of a married couple and their final dissolution. But, administrative and court cases can drag on for extended periods of time which then multiplies the final amount due.

The danger of retroactive child support (or the benefit depending on which side your on) is how quickly it adds up. Knowing what your ultimate obligation is going to be is one of the best ways to protect you. Our Montana Child Support Calculator follows the state guidelines to produce an accurate result. Don’t be fooled by other supposed calculators that just do an estimate and ignore Montana law.

Parenting Plans and Child Support

Something many people don’t seem to realize is that parenting plans have a huge impact on child support in Montana. But before we get into that, a few words about parenting plans:

If you have a child with someone and you don’t live with that person anymore, you should have a parenting plan. I don’t care how well things are going today, or how great things were for the past six months. If things really are going to keep going well, then they’ll keep going well with a parenting plan in place. And if everything goes bad, you’ll be glad you’ve got a plan already in place. What people too often miss is that the best time to create a parenting plan is when you’re getting along with the other parent. Don’t wait until it all goes sour and try to do it then.

Now that that’s out of the way, parenting plans impact child support very directly because they specific how many days a year the child spends with each parent. And the number of days a year each child spends with each parent is a major part of the calculation. For the purposes of the Montana Child Support Guidelines, 110 days is the magic number. When a child resides primarily with one parent and does not spend more than 110 days per year with the other parent, there is no adjustment to the transfer payment due. So, if your child spends 110 or less with one of his parents the calculation remains the same no matter how few days that parent sees the child.

But, if the child is spending more than 110 days per year with each parent, then it’s going to impact child support. For these purposes, a day is defined as the majority of a 24-hour calendar period in which the child is with or under the control of a parent. Generally speaking, the calendar period begins at midnight of the first day and ends at midnight of the second day. Parents can agree otherwise, or the Court can order a different standard – but that’s the default.

When the child is in the temporary care of a third party, like school or day care, the parent who is the primary contact for the third party is the parent who has control of the child for that period of the day.

Properly determining the number of days your child spends with each parent is vital to a correct child support calculation. And once you’ve determined those numbers, doing the math properly can mean the difference between adequate compensation and a payment that doesn’t do the job. Our child support calculator quickly and accurately determines child support, and allows you to change the number of days your child spends with each parent so you can actually see the effect it has on the bottom line. Ready to get started? Sign up today.

Long Distance Parenting in Montana

Montana is a big state, and this can have a big impact on child support calculations. Often, parents live in a different city or county from their children, but still take the time to drive regularly to see them. This is long distance parenting under the child support guidelines. More specifically, long distance parenting is any travel by a parent or child to attain the goals of the parenting plan. A long distance parenting adjustment is allowed when travel by a parent or child exceeds 2,000 miles in a calendar year.

If a parent travels more than 2,000 miles in a year, the overage is multiplied by the IRS business mileage rate. That amount is then deducted from part of the calculation (the SOLA). The good news is that if you use our child support calculator, we handle this automatically. All you need to know is the number of miles you travel in a given year.

The expenses include travel expenses only and do not include the costs of meals, lodging, or other costs. But, it can include transportation costs by means other than automobiles.

Your child support calculation includes a huge number of factors that most people would never think of. Doing the math correctly is incredibly important as these results will be submitted to the Court for your judge’s review. A major benefit of using a child support calculator that produces results actually based on the Montana guidelines is that you don’t have to worry about silly mistakes causing problems later. We do everything from the math to formatting the proper documents. Just hit print. Interested? It probably costs less than you think. Click here to learn more and get started today.

Imputing Income in Child Support

Sometimes we don’t have good information about what a parent is earning. Sometimes, even if we have information – that doesn’t reflect reality very well. In those cases, the Rules say that we should impute income. Imputed Income is income that’s not actually earned by either parent. The Administrative Rules of Montana defines it in defined 37.62.106, ARM. It comes from the assumption that each parent is capable of working 40 hours per week unless there is evidence to the contrary. For a parent who can’t show a good reason for it, but is working less than 40 hours a week (or earning less than they should for that time) we can impute their income to an amount that better reflects what they should be doing.

There are 5 situations where it is appropriate to impute income, when the parent is: 1) unemployed; 2) underemployed; 3) fails to produce sufficient proof of income; 4) has an unknown employment status; or 5) is a student. Everyone knows what unemployment is. Underemployment is someone who is working, but not working as much as the Rules think they should. The part of this list that usually raises eyebrows is that we impute income to students. The reason for that is that for the rest of the world your income is a decent reflection of how much money you need to get by. But it’s not that way for students. Imputing income is about the only way to produce results that make sense when it comes to people still in school.

If it is appropriate to impute income, then the rules define what factors should be considered. Specifically, the things to consider are: 1) a parent’s recent work history; 2) the parent’s occupational and professional qualifications; and 3) existing job opportunities and associated earning levels in the community or the local trade area. This factors combine to tell us how much the parent could be earning if he was working (or working more hours).

Even if one of the parents is working, you can still impute income to that person. And the fact that the parent is earning a certain amount does not define the earning potential which can be imputed. So, if I’m a doctor, but working part time at a minimum wage job, the imputation can be based off of what I would make as a doctor and isn’t stuck only considering what I’m making scrubbing pots.

There are a number of scenarios where we can’t impute income. For example, if the reasonable and unreimbursed costs of child care for dependents in the parent’s household would offset in whole or in part that parent’s imputed income. Or, if a parent is physically or mentally disabled to the extend that the parent cannot earn income. Also, if unusual emotional and/or physical needs of a legal dependent require the parent’s presence in the home. Or if the parent has made diligent efforts to find and accept suitable work or to return to customary self-employment to no avail. And the final situation is if the court or hearing officer makes a finding that other circumstances exist which make the imputation of income inequitable. This last one is a catch all that gives Courts the authority to deal with edge cases and extreme situations.

Imputation of income is a tricky and complicated topic and this article really isn’t going to make you an expert. The best advice if you’re facing a situation where you may need to impute income it to talk to an attorney familiar with child support calculations. Once you know what to impute the other parent’s income at, you’ll be able to complete the financial information for your child support calculation.

Child Support vs. Alimony

An important point to start with is that Montana does not have alimony. Instead, we call in maintenance. Other than the terminology, the concept stays the same. It is a payment from one spouse to another after the end of a marriage. Sometimes for a set length of time, sometimes for an indefinite amount of time. The rationale varies, but often involves compensating a spouse for opportunities he or she gave up for the benefit of a marriage. A typical example is a mother who did not finish college to care for a child while the husband continued on to law school. The husband now has a higher earning potential after the marriage, but he was able to do so because the wife stayed home and sacrificed her own future earning potential. In order to help balance that, the Court could award the wife a monthly payment to make up for that difference and allow her to finish school.

Montana Courts appear to dislike tying a divorced couple together with these kind of payments. Once a marriage is done, it should be as clean of a break as possible. That’s the theory at least.

The glaring exception to this is child support. If you have a child with someone, even if you get divorced, you’re probably going to be tied to that person for the foreseeable future. 18 years is just the start. Unlike maintenance, child support is very much favored by Montana courts. In fact, if you have a child under the age of 18 and get divorced from the other parent in Montana, the law requires that a child support calculation be part of the divorce before it can be finalized. So much for a clean break.

But child support is important. It allows a single parent, on a vastly reduced budget, to continue caring for the kids. There is no set formula for maintenance, but there is for child support. It’s not simple, but it is mathematic. At the risk of over-simplifying the issue, we start by adding all the income of each parent individually and then subtracting all the allowable expenses. What’s left gets put through a lot of fancy arithmetic to calculate how much one parent owes to the other for each kid. If you’re interested in doing the math yourself, Montana’s Child Support Enforcement Division has forms online that will walk you through the process.

Or, you can use our Child Support Calculator to automatically figure child support. You can create unlimited calculations too, to see what the results look like with different amounts for income and expenses. Whether you’re involved in a court case or just curious, this is powerful information available for less than you’d expect. And if you are involved in a Court case, our online software will print the Court forms you need with the information already filled out.