Archive | December, 2012

MT Do It Yourself Divorce

Traditionally, most couples going through a divorce did it with the help of lawyers. The husband and the wife would each hire their own attorney to guide them through the process and help with the necessary calculations and divisions of property. But a change is brewing. More and more, people are using the resources at their disposal to navigate the legal process themselves.

It’s easy to see why this is becoming a popular option. Divorce is an incredibly intimate process that tends to touch on the most private aspects of people’s lives. Bringing in complete strangers, even if they are lawyers, can be uncomfortable and invasive. And it’s expensive. A typical divorce usually costs each party several thousand dollars in attorneys’ fees alone. And while most lawyers are good, decent people – there are some who will amplify the disputes just to drive your costs up and increase their bottom line.

On top of all that, there are a number of great resources out there for people trying to handle their own divorce. The Montana Supreme Court supplies forms for all the documents you will need to file in Court to process your divorce. You can find them online at this link. You’ll need to pick the proper packet depending on whether you have minor children and whether you and your soon-to-be-ex will be doing it together. If that’s the case, it’s called a “Summary Dissolution.”

If you have minor children, the law requires that you also provide a child support calculation with your paperwork to the Court. It can be done by hand, and the Child Support Enforcement Division has done a great job of making it as easy as possible to do this way. But it’s still a long and complicated process. And making any changes requires doing the entire thing over again. For years, lawyers have had access to software able to do the calculations for them. Now, you can have the same thing. By using the Montana Child Support Calculator, you can automatically calculate as many calculations as you like. Choose the best result and you’re all set. The program creates printable versions of the appropriate paperwork to file with the Court.

It’s getting easier and easier to handle your divorce yourself. But it’s important to do it right, and one of the best ways to do that is to use the resources at your disposal. Use the proper forms and take advantage of the child support calculator. Doing it yourself can be smart. But there’s no reason to make it harder than necessary.

Announcing Child Support Help

Our goal is simple: make calculating Montana child support as easy and convenient as possible. Today, we’re happy to announce a step in that direction. Our system now offers inline help, explaining all the different entries that you’re asked to provide in a child support calculation. The help language comes directly from Montana’s Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED) and gives vital guidance to what can be an otherwise intimidating questionaire.

Next to each blank in our system, you’ll now see a box with a question mark. Simply click the box to get an explanation for what type of information goes in that blank, and how it should be calculated. A few of the help sections even have an accompanying explanation. Again, these are provided directly by the state agency responsible for developing the child support guidelines. You might say, they’re straight from the horse’s mouth.

The Rebuttable Presumption of Child Support

The Montana child support guidelines and worksheets produce a determination of what parent owes to another in child support. Our laws assume that this number (sometimes called the “bottom line”) is correct. But, our law also recognizes that sometimes the result may need to be altered. Our laws, the guidelines, the administrative rules, all the factors that go in to calculating child support cover a huge number of possible outcomes. But they can’t cover everything. And in those rare cases where something unexpected is taking place, the law allows for a deviation from the bottom line.

Here’s how it works: The guidelines create a presumption of adequacy and reasonableness of child support awards. The bottom line is usually right. But, every case must be determined on its own merits. So, if in your situation the guidelines result is unfair or inadequate, then a different determination may be appropriate. If you can show that a child’s needs are not being met, then you’re on your way to establishing that a deviation is appropriate.

If one of the parties requests it, the final outcome of the calculation can be rebutted and a variance from the guidelines can be entered that better accounts for the best interests of the child. The written order accompanying the variance MUST contain a specific written finding showing justification that application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate. This also needs to include a statement identifying what the bottom line would have been without the adjustment.

Remember, variations are rare. The presumption usually stands, and it takes significant and credible evidence to successfully rebut it. But, if you are in a unique or unusual circumstance – take heart. The law is flexible enough to allow for consideration of your circumstances and gives the Court the latitude to make appropriate rulings accordingly.

2012 Montana Child Support Guidelines

In 2012, a number of significant changes were introduced to the Montana Child Support Guidelines and Worksheets. The most obvious change is that a new worksheet was introduced. Although it’s essentially identical to the previous version, it has an entirely new look that is obvious at a glance. Overall, it’s easier to read and provides a clearer and more succinct end result. But, a number of changes were made to the rules as well that can produce different outcomes in calculations.

For example, the guidelines income rule was divided into two different rules: 1) Actual Income; and 2) Imputed Income. For the purposes of determining child support, parents are presumed to be able to work full-time (which is usually 40 hours per week). One interesting facet of the new rule (ARM 37.62.105) is that it allows for consideration of a parent’s assets where it would be inappropriate not to do so. CSED has stated that this is intended to apply to cases in which income is lacking or does not reflect the parent’s standard of living and it may be appropriate to impute earnings to the net market value of the parent’s non-income-producing assets. It’s clear this provision is not expected to be used often.

Another interesting addition to the Child Support Guidelines is paragraph 5 of Rule 4 which addresses overtime and second job income. Both of these are to be included for child support, however – there is a distinction between mandatory and voluntary overtime. It is possible to overcome the presumption regarding voluntary overtime. If it is for a limited time and/or a specific purpose (e.g. paying extraordinary medical expenses) the presumption may be rebutted and the overtime pay not included as income for child support.

This is not an exhaustive list of the changes, just a quick note to let you know about a few of them. It’s important to remember that the child support guidelines change periodically. A old calculation may not longer be correct or accurate. Although a change in the rules is probably not enough to seek a court order for recalculation of child support, it can still have a large impact child support and calculations that are ongoing.