The State of Connecticut and our Superior Court judges want to make sure that the financial needs of children are appropriately taken care of by their divorcing parents. In fact, our law presumes that both parents will contribute to their children’s financial support to the extent each parent is able to do so – whether the divorce is amicable or contentious, litigated, mediated or collaborative.
The legal analysis of the child support question begins with the State of Connecticut Child Support and Arrearage Guidelines, often referred to simply as “The Guidelines”.
The Guidelines provide a mathematical formula for determining the amount or share each parent must contribute to his or her children’s basic needs, child care costs and medical and dental expenses which are not covered by insurance. The formula takes into account each parent’s income, the number of children entitled to support, and certain “mandatory” payroll type expenses such as income taxes, union dues and health insurance premiums.
The Superior Court judge at the final divorce hearing is required to enter these Guideline amounts and shares as court orders except under certain limited circumstances when deviation is permitted. In other words, the Court will presume the Guidelines control unless there are compelling reasons why they should not. Even in a mediated or collaborative divorce then, the Guidelines are usually controlling and always, at least, important.
Sometimes, supplementing The Guidelines, a Superior Court judge may order parents to contribute to a child’s other expenses such as extra-curricular activities or private school.
Child support term
With few exceptions, the State of Connecticut requires parents to support a child until the child’s 18 birthday or later if the child is still a full time high school student, but not past age 19. Contrary to what many people believe, parents, whether married or divorced, aren’t typically required to support college students.
Many parents choose divorce mediation or collaborative divorce because their children are their priority. These parents may want or be able to provide their children with more financial security and opportunities than the State of Connecticut mandates. Using The Guidelines as the starting point, I often help mediation and collaborative divorce clients create a financial arrangement which reflects their vision for their children’s future. And, fortunately for these families, financial arrangements which are approved by the court at the final divorce hearing become court orders which either parent may enforce in the future.