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.

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