The Washington DC Child Support Guideline provides the framework for child support calculations.
The child support obligation is tabulated by entering parents gross incomes and applying credits to each party when applicable.
Gross income includes all forms of income including but not limited to: salary and wages; commissions; royalties; bonuses; interest or dividends; income from business; Social Security; Veteran’s benefits; insurance benefits; worker’s compensation; unemployment compensation; pension; annuity; income from a trust, etc.
The Statute allows for departure from the guideline-calculated amount when the departure is “just and fair.” Just departure must be legally based and reasoning thereof articulated in the court order.
Generally each party may receive credit or cause departure based on having:
- A minor child in his or her care;
- Credit for medical coverage;
- Extraordinary household expenses, etc.
The court may also impute income on a parent in an event of “voluntarily unemployed or underemployed” due to bad faith or to avoid child support obligations.
PHYSICAL CUSTODY AND CHILD SUPPORT
As the child support amount continues until the age of 21, it is essential to have a thorough analysis early on to make sure your child support obligations are not exceeding the guideline amount and that all applicable credits are applied.
The child support calculations drastically reduce if the child is in your care for 35% or more of the allotted times as presumption of joint custody applies.
Thus in some aspects the child support liability and the physical custody interrelate and it is paramount to settle both cases if applicable simultaneously.
It is important to highlight that establishment of legal paternity is prerequisite to any imposition of child support obligation.
Generally paternity may be established via:
- Voluntary acknowledgment of paternity
- DNA/Genetic testing
- Birth certificate
In the District, if you have been named in the birth certificate then paternity is legally established even if there is error and later it is determined that there is no genetic or biological link.
There are limited circumstances in which legal paternity through birth certificate can be challenged. If not listed on birth certificate, then it is prudent to request and obtain genetic testing to establish paternity.
Acknowledging paternity on the record at the outset of child support legal proceedings without the benefit of DNA testing could be another irreversible legal error.
CHILD SUPPORT MODIFICATION
Moreover often times modifications to the child support obligations are necessary when there are changes in circumstances, that is, financial and employment changes, geographical moves, placement changes, or increased physical custody.
Child support amount may be modified via motion for modification in case of increased or decreased income or as the statute requires when there is substantial and material change of circumstances.
The burden of proof will be on the moving party to establish modification is warranted.
There is a presumption of substantial and material change of circumstances warranting modification when the current application of the guideline would result in an increased or decreased amount of child support by 15% percent or more.
RETROACTIVE CHILD SUPPORT
The court may also grant retroactive child support when appropriate going back up to 24 months. The incomes used for the retroactive sum would be tabulated based on the respective incomes of the parents during the retroactive period.
This is discretionary and thus should be vigorously litigated to avoid starting child support payment with a significant sum accumulated over 24 months.
RELATED LEGAL ARTICLES:
Below are some of online resources pertinent to paternity and support including list of sample legal forms and motions from the DC Bar Pro Bono relating to paternity and support, the DC child support calculator, and the Child Support Guideline
• Petition to Establish Paternity and/or for Child Support
• Answer to Petition to Establish Paternity and/or for Child Support
• Motion to Intervene in Child Support Case
• Motion to Modify Child Support Order
• Motion for Contempt (Child Support Order)
• Motion for Use in a Paternity or Child Support Case
• Opposition to Motion (Paternity or Child Support Case)
It is paramount to have the assistance of an expert Washington DC child support lawyer before committing to a child support sum either as a receiver of the sum or one who is under obligation to pay child support.
It is particularly important to have the assistance of an experienced Washington DC child support lawyer to properly apply the child support guideline to your case and to make sure all appropriate departures from the guideline are credited to your statutory obligation.
Contact our family law Washington DC child support lawyer today for a detailed evaluation and assessment of your child support obligations. Your initial case evaluation and analysis with our Washington DC Family Lawyer is free of charge.