Child Support Calculations in Montana are described in the Administrative Rules of Montana. The guidelines were created by the Department of Public Health and Human Performance under the authority of 40-5-209, MCA. That statute states that the guidelines should be created for the purpose of establishing a standard to be used by the district courts, child support enforcement agencies, attorneys and parents in determining child support obligations.
The guidelines are based on the principle that that parent’s first priority is to meet the needs of their child according to their financial ability. The child is very much the focus of these guidelines. So much so, that the guidelines specifically state that the child’s standard of living should not be adversely affected because of the parents’ separation. Of course, that’s not always possible, but to the extent that it is – that’s what the guidelines seek to establish. These guidelines apply to contested, non-contested and default proceedings to establish or modify support orders in Montana.
The guidelines create a presumption of the adequacy and reasonableness of child support awards. This means that the amount reached in a calculation isn’t necessarily final, but a Court will assume that it is unless evidence is presented that a child’s needs are or are not being met. If such a change is requested (the guidelines refer to it as a variance) the Court is to consider a variety of factors such as: the financial resources of the child; the financial resources of the parents; the standard of living that the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved; the physical and emotional condition of the child and the child’s educational and medical needs; the age of the child; the cost of day care for the child; any parenting plan that is ordered or decided upon; and the needs of any person, other than the child, whom either parent is legally obligated to support.
If the Court is going to order a support obligation that is different than the result of the child support calculation, it is absolutely necessary that the decree, separation order or support order contains a specific written finding showing justification that application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate.