The following article will cover:
- Understanding the determination of child support in Louisiana.
- Calculating and comprehending child support obligations.
- Exploring deviations from child support guidelines and other important considerations.
How Is The Amount Of Child Support Determined In Louisiana?
In Louisiana, both parents bear the responsibility to support, maintain, and educate their child. As specified by law, the duty to provide an education extends even after the child’s minority. The court can adjust the amount of child support if there is a substantial change in the child’s or either parent’s circumstances. Furthermore, the obligation to pay child support may cease upon sufficient evidence proving its non-necessity.
Guidelines For Determination Of Child Support
Louisiana has set forth specific principles to guide the determination of child support, ensuring that the process is both transparent and fair. Below are some fundamental principles for your understanding:
- Continuous Obligation of Both Parents: Child support isn’t solely the responsibility of one parent; it’s a joint obligation. Your child deserves to partake in the current income of both parents, not be the economic victims of separation, divorce, or out-of-wedlock birth.
- Income Shares Model: This model is the foundation of Louisiana’s child support guidelines. Its purpose is to mimic the percentage of net parental income that intact families spend on their children. Such a calculation considers several factors, including federal and state taxes and FICA taxes.
Despite the family disruption, the state of Louisiana prioritizes your child’s well-being. They strive to prevent children from living in poverty and ensure that they have the same opportunities as children in intact families, composed of parents with similar financial means to their own.
Income Shares Approach
The guidelines adopt an ‘Income Shares’ approach, which uses a numerical schedule to represent the amounts of child support. This schedule provides estimates of child-rearing expenditures at various income levels and the number of children in the household. The model uses national average data, adjusted to reflect Louisiana’s status as a low-income state and incorporates a self-sufficiency reserve for low-income payors/obligors.
In intact families, the incomes of both parents amalgamate for the benefit of all household members, including children. Each parent’s contribution to the combined income represents their relative share of household expenses. This same principle of income sharing is also used to determine how parents will share a child support award. Hence, understanding this mechanism is crucial when navigating child support proceedings in Louisiana.
Definitions Of Terms Used In Establishing Child Support
When establishing child support, understanding the terminology used can assist you in navigating this process effectively. Here are some key terms:
Adjusted Gross Income
This term refers to your gross income, minus certain obligations. These include pre-existing child or spousal support owed under an order to another who is not part of the current proceedings, and, at the court’s discretion, amounts paid on behalf of a minor child not subject to the court’s action.
Combined Adjusted Gross Income
This term refers to the collective adjusted gross income of both parties involved in the child support proceedings.
This term encompasses income from various sources, including but not limited to:
- Salaries, wages, commissions, bonuses, dividends, severance pay, pensions, interest, recurring monetary gifts, annuities, capital gains, and certain benefits.
- Reimbursements or in-kind payments received during employment or business operations that significantly reduce personal living expenses.
- Gross receipts minus expenses needed to generate income in the case of self-employment, rent, royalties, proprietorship of a business, or joint ownership of a partnership or corporation.
However, gross income does not include child support received, certain public assistance benefits, non-taxable per diem allowances, extraordinary overtime, certain monetary gifts, or disaster assistance benefits.
Health Insurance Premiums
This term refers to the actual amount a party pays to provide health insurance for the child. It doesn’t cover any employer-paid amount or any amount paid for coverage of other persons.
Income means the actual gross income of a party, or potential income if the party is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. The court can also consider the benefits derived from expense-sharing or other sources as income. However, the court will not consider the income of another spouse.
This term refers to health insurance and the payment of the child’s medical expenses.
Net Child Care Costs
These are the reasonable child care costs incurred by a party due to employment or job search, subtracting the value of the federal income tax credit for child care.
Ordinary Medical Expenses
This term refers to unreimbursed medical expenses up to two hundred fifty dollars per child per year.
The above information is incorporated into the child support worksheet and cross-referenced with the Louisiana Child Support Obligation Guidelines. The result is a specific child support amount.
Child support can be modified if the circumstances of the child or either parent significantly change. Furthermore, the obligation may be terminated upon sufficient proof that it is no longer necessary.
Determination of Income; Evidence
If a party alleges income concealment or under-reporting, the court can admit relevant evidence. Such evidence may involve redirected income, deferred income, or inconsistencies between the obligor’s lifestyle and their claimed income.
In cases where the obligor’s income cannot be determined sufficiently, the court may consider evidence from government-distributed wage and earnings surveys.
Calculation of Basic Child Support Obligations
- Verified Income Statement and Documentation
- Each party must provide a verified income statement showing gross income and adjusted gross income.
- Documentation of current and past earnings should be included, such as pay stubs or employer statements.
- Spouses of the parties must provide relevant information regarding the source of payments of household expenses upon request from the court or opposing party.
- Failure to timely file the request will not be a basis for a continuance.
- Suitable documentation of current earnings should include pay stubs or employer statements, as well as a copy of the party’s most recent federal tax return.
- All statements and documentation must be provided to the other party.
- When an obligor has an ownership interest in a business, additional suitable documentation is required, such as the last three personal and business state and federal income tax returns, including all attachments and schedules (specifically Schedule K-1 and W-2 forms, 1099 forms, and amendments), the most recent profit and loss statements, balance sheets, financial statements, quarterly sales tax reports, as well as personal and business bank account statements, receipts, and expenses.
- Determination of Gross Income for Voluntarily Unemployed or Underemployed Party
- If a party is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, their gross income shall be determined as generally set forth below.
- Calculation of Proportionate Share
- The parties shall combine the amounts of their adjusted gross incomes.
- Each party shall then determine their proportionate share of the combined amount by percentage.
- The amount obtained for each party represents their percentage share of the combined adjusted gross income.
- Determination of Basic Child Support Obligation
- The court shall determine the basic child support obligation amount using the schedule in R.S. 9:315.19.
- The determination is based on the combined adjusted gross income of the parties and the number of children involved in the proceeding.
- However, the child support amount shall not be less than the amount provided in R.S. 9:315.14.
- Total Child Support Obligation
- After establishing the basic child support obligation, the total child support obligation will be determined as outlined in this Part.
Child Care Costs; Additions To Basic Obligation
- Addition of Net Child Care Costs
- The basic child support obligation shall be increased by adding net child care costs.
- Net child care costs are determined by applying the Federal Credit for Child and Dependent Care Expenses provided in Internal Revenue Form 2441 to the total or actual child care costs.
- Consideration of Reasonable Child Care Expenses
- Reasonable child care expenses incurred by either parent while receiving job training or education necessary to obtain employment or enhance earning potential may be added to the basic child support obligation.
- However, if such expenses unreasonably burden the parent paying child support, they may be reconsidered.
Health Insurance Premiums; Additions To Basic Obligation
- Enrollment or Maintenance of Health Insurance for the Child
- In any child support case, the court may order one of the parties to enroll or maintain an insurable child in a health benefits plan, policy, or program.
- The court considers factors such as each party’s individual, group, or employee’s health insurance program, employment history, personal income, and other resources to determine which party should be responsible for enrolling the child or maintaining insurance coverage.
- The cost of health insurance premiums incurred on behalf of the child shall be added to the basic child support obligation.
- Medical Support Requirement in Support Enforcement Cases
- In cases where the department provides support enforcement services, the child support order shall require one or both parties to provide medical support for the child in accordance with R.S. 46:236.1.2(L).
Extraordinary Medical Expenses; Additions To Basic Obligation
- Extraordinary medical expenses incurred on behalf of the child may be added to the basic child support obligation by agreement of the parties or order of the court.
- Extraordinary medical expenses refer to unreimbursed medical expenses that exceed two hundred fifty dollars per child per calendar year (§315.6).
Other Extraordinary Expenses; Additions to Basic Obligation
By agreement of the parties or order of the court, the following expenses incurred on behalf of the child may be added to the basic child support obligation:
(1) Expenses of tuition, registration, books, and supply fees required for attending a special or private elementary or secondary school to meet the needs of the child.
(2) Any expenses for transportation of the child from one party to the other.
- (3) Special expenses incurred for child rearing intended to enhance the health, athletic, social, or cultural development of a child. These expenses include, but are not limited to, camp fees, music or art lessons, travel expenses, and school-sponsored extracurricular activities.
Deductions For Income Of The Child; Subtraction From Basic Obligation
The income of your child can potentially offset the basic child support obligation. It means if your child earns income that aids in meeting their basic needs, it can be factored in as a deduction from the basic child support obligation.
Exception For Student’s Income
However, this does not apply to income your child earns while being a full-time student. This holds true irrespective of the time of earning such income, be it during a summer or holiday break.
Public Assistance Programs
Furthermore, any benefits your child might receive from public assistance programs are not applicable. These programs include but are not limited to Family Independence Temporary Assistance Programs (FITAP), food stamps, or any means-tested program.
Social Security Benefits
The social security benefits your child receives due to a parent’s earnings will be credited as child support to the parent upon whose earning record it is based. This is accomplished by offsetting the amount against the potential obligation of that parent.
Child Support Arrearage
In instances where a child support arrearage exists, the court is required to conduct an evidentiary hearing prior to reducing any arrearage based on lump sum payments your child receives.
Calculation Of Total Child Support Obligation; Worksheet
The total child support obligation is determined by combining several factors. These include the basic child support obligation amount, the net child care costs, the cost of health insurance premiums, extraordinary medical expenses, and other extraordinary expenses.
Should your child have any income, a deduction of that amount will be subtracted from the total calculated. The balance then becomes the total child support obligation.
Share Of Obligation
Each party’s share of the total child support obligation is then established by multiplying their percentage share of combined adjusted gross income by the total child support obligation.
The party without legal custody or the nondomiciliary party is required to owe their total child support obligation as a money judgment of child support to the custodial or domiciliary party. This is minus any court-ordered direct payments made on behalf of the child for work-related net child care costs, health insurance premiums, extraordinary medical expenses, or extraordinary expenses provided as adjustments to the schedule.
“Joint Custody” is defined as a joint custody order that is not shared custody.
Child’s Time With The Nondomiciliary Party
In situations of joint custody, the court will take into account the period your child spends with the nondomiciliary party to adjust the amount of child support to be paid during that time.
Physical Custody And Child Support Credit
Under a joint custody order, if the person ordered to pay child support has physical custody of the child for more than seventy-three days, the court may authorize a credit to the child support obligation. The definition of a day for this purpose is to be determined by the court; however, less than four hours of physical custody of the child does not constitute a day.
The court, in deciding the amount of credit to be given, will consider several factors:
- The amount of time the child spends with the person to whom the credit would be applied. The court will also consider the continuing expenses of the domiciliary party.
- The increase in financial burden placed on the person to whom the credit would be applied and the decrease in financial burden on the person receiving child support.
- The best interests of the child and what is equitable between the parties.
Burden Of Proof
The burden of proof lies with the person seeking the credit.
Worksheet For Child Support Determination
A worksheet provided by Louisiana statutes or a substantially similar form adopted by local court rule, will be used to determine child support in accordance with this regulation.
Effect Of Shared Custodial Arrangement
“Shared custody” refers to a custody arrangement where each parent has physical custody of the child for approximately an equal amount of time.
Impact On Basic Child Support Obligation
In case there is a joint custody order or joint plan for implementation providing for shared custody, or if the court determines that shared custody exists, the basic child support obligation is first increased by one and a half times. This amount is then divided between the parents in proportion to their respective adjusted gross incomes.
Calculation Of Theoretical Child Support Obligation
Each parent’s theoretical child support obligation is cross-multiplied by the actual percentage of time the child spends with the other party. This step is undertaken to determine the basic child support obligation based on the amount of time spent with the other party.
Consideration Of Child Care Costs And Extraordinary Adjustments
Each parent’s proportionate share of work-related net child care costs and extraordinary adjustments to the schedule will be added to the amount calculated in the previous step.
Deduction For Direct Payments
Each parent’s proportionate share of any direct payments ordered to be made on behalf of the child for net child care costs, the cost of health insurance premiums, extraordinary medical expenses, or other extraordinary expenses will be subtracted from the amount calculated in the previous step.
Payment Of Uninsured Ordinary Medical Expenses
The court will order each parent to pay his proportionate share of all reasonable and necessary uninsured ordinary medical expenses, as defined in R.S. 9:315(C)(8), which are under two hundred fifty dollars.
Calculation Of Child Support Obligation
The parent owing the larger amount of child support must pay to the other parent the difference between the two amounts as a child support obligation. The amount owed must not exceed what that parent would have owed if he or she were the domiciliary parent.
Worksheet For Shared Custody
A worksheet for shared custody as provided by Louisiana statutes, or a substantially similar form adopted by local court rule, is used to determine child support in accordance with this regulation.
Effect Of Split Custodial Arrangement
“Split custody” refers to a situation where each party is the sole custodial or domiciliary parent of at least one child to whom support is due. This type of custody arrangement exists where there is a custody order or joint plan of implementation providing for split custody, or the court determines that split custody exists.
Impact On Total Child Support Obligation
In case split custody exists as per this regulation, each parent should compute a total child support obligation for the child or children in the custody of the other parent. This calculation should be based on the guidelines provided in this regulation.
Calculation Of Theoretical Support Obligation
The amount determined in the previous step will represent a theoretical support obligation owed to each parent.
Considerations For Voluntary Unemployment Or Under-Employment
In situations where a party is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, child support is calculated based on the determination of income-earning potential. Exceptions to this rule apply if the party is physically or mentally incapacitated, or if they are caring for a child of the parties who is under five years of age.
Factors For Determining Income Earning Potential
When determining a party’s income-earning potential, the court may consider factors such as the most recently published Louisiana Occupational Employment Wage Survey. Furthermore, the court may take into account various factors including, but not limited to:
- The party’s assets
- Their residence
- Their employment and earnings history
- Their job skills
- Their level of educational attainment
- Their literacy
- Their age and health
- Their criminal record and other employment barriers
- Their record of seeking work
- The local job market
- The availability of employers willing to hire the noncustodial parent
- The prevailing earnings level in the local community
- Other relevant background factors in the case
Presumption Of Income-Earning Potential
In the absence of evidence pertaining to a party’s actual income or income-earning potential, there is a rebuttable presumption that the party can earn a weekly gross amount equal to thirty-two hours at a minimum wage, according to the laws of his state of domicile or federal law, whichever is higher.
Exceptions To Voluntary Unemployment Or Underemployment
A party shall not be deemed voluntarily unemployed or underemployed if:
- They have been temporarily unable to find work or have been temporarily forced to take a lower-paying job as a direct result of Hurricane Katrina or Rita
- They are or were incarcerated and are unemployed or underemployed as a direct result of the incarceration. Here, “Incarceration” is defined as per R.S. 9:311.1
Limitation On Child Support Obligations
The amount of the basic child support obligation calculated according to the factors outlined above shall not exceed the amount which the party paying support would have owed had a determination of the other party’s income-earning potential not been made.
Guideline Adherence And Deviations In Child Support
The guidelines stipulated in this Part are designed for proceedings to establish or modify child support filed on or after October 1, 1989. A rebuttable presumption exists that the amount of child support derived from these guidelines is the appropriate amount.
B. Deviations From Guidelines By Court
- If applying these guidelines would not be in the best interest of the child or would be inequitable to the parties, the court may deviate from them. The court must provide explicit oral or written reasons for this deviation. These reasons must include a finding of the amount of support that would have been required under a mechanical application of the guidelines, and specific facts and circumstances justifying the deviation. The reasons must be made part of the record of the proceedings.
- The court may also deviate from the guidelines as a direct result of Hurricane Katrina or Rita if applying the guidelines would not be in the child’s best interest, or would be unjust, inequitable, or cause undue hardship to the parties. In deciding the amount of child support, the court may consider the potential hindrance the parties might have faced in timely accessing the courts to exercise their legal rights. However, the amount of the deviation should not exceed the consideration the court would have given if the party had been able to timely access the court.
C. Factors Considered For Deviation From Guidelines
In determining whether to deviate from the guidelines, the court may consider the following:
- Combined adjusted gross income of the parties as it relates to the schedule in R.S. 9:315.19.
- If the combined adjusted gross income is less than the lowest sum on the schedule, the court shall determine child support based on the facts of the case, but the amount should not be less than the minimum child support as per R.S. 9:315.14.
- If the combined adjusted gross income exceeds the highest sum on the schedule, the court will determine child support as provided in R.S. 9:315.13(B)(1) and may mandate a portion of the amount be placed in a trust per R.S. 9:315.13.
- A party’s legal obligation to support dependents not the subject of the court action, living in their household.
- Situations involving one or more families with existing child support orders for children not living in the noncustodial or nondomiciliary parent’s household. If existing orders reduce the parent’s income below the lowest income level on the schedule, the court may use its discretion in setting child support.
- The extraordinary medical expenses of a party, or extraordinary medical expenses for which a party may be responsible, that are not already considered under the guidelines.
- An extraordinary community debt of the parties.
- Immediate and temporary support needed for a child when a full hearing on the issue of support is pending but cannot be timely held.
- The permanent or temporary total disability of a spouse that impacts their present and future earning capacity.
- Long-term and financially burdensome support for an adult child with a disability, as defined in Louisiana statutes.
- Any other consideration that would make application of the guidelines not in the best interest of the child or inequitable to the parties.
D. Court Review of Stipulations between Parties
The court may review and approve a stipulation between the parties regarding the amount of child support. If the court reviews the stipulation, it should consider the guidelines to assess the adequacy of the stipulated amount. The court may also require the parties to provide income statements and documentation as required by Louisiana statutes.
315.12. Second Jobs And Overtime
The court may consider the needs of a subsequent family in an action to modify an existing child support order when the obligor has taken a second job or is working overtime to support the subsequent family. However, the obligor is responsible for proving that the additional income is used to provide for the subsequent family.
Mandatory Minimum Child Support Award
The court should not set a child support award lower than one hundred dollars, except in cases involving shared or split custody. In cases where the obligor has a medically documented disability that limits their ability to meet the mandatory minimum, the court may set an award of less than one hundred dollars.
315.18. Schedule; Information
A. The amounts listed in the schedule in the applicable statutes assume that the custodial or domiciliary party has the right to claim the child as a dependent. Nevertheless, the claiming of dependents for federal and state income tax purposes is provided in Subsection B of this Section.
- The non-domiciliary party whose child support obligation equals or exceeds fifty percent of the total child support obligation has the right to claim the child as a dependent for federal and state tax purposes if, after a contradictory motion, the judge finds both of the following:
- There are no arrears owed by the obligor.
- The right to claim the child, or some of the children in the case of multiple children, would substantially benefit the non-domiciliary party without significantly harming the domiciliary party.
2. The child support order should:
- Specify the years in which the party is entitled to claim the appropriate dependents.
- Mandate the domiciliary party to promptly execute all forms required by the Internal Revenue Service, allowing the non-domiciliary party to exercise the claim.
- Prohibit the non-domiciliary party from claiming a dependent for any given tax year if they owe arrears under a child support order for that dependent on the last day of that year.
3. Subparagraph (2)(c) of this Subsection applies to child support orders rendered or modified in accordance with this Section on or after January 1, 2021.
C. The party who benefits from the tax exemption for a specific year will not be considered as having received an undue payment if the claim is not maintained by the taxing authorities.
D. Despite the provisions of Subsection B of this Section, the non-domiciliary party can claim the child as a dependent if, after a contradictory motion, the judge finds all of the following:
- The domiciliary party is unemployed and will not file a tax return for the tax year in question.
- The obligor owes arrears.
- The obligor’s anticipated tax refund can be used to reduce the arrears.
For more information on Child Support Awards In Louisiana, a free initial consultation with The Law Offices of Williams & Williams PLC. is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (318) 731-9182 today.