High Income Child Support
A child support case in which combined parental
income exceeds $100,000, or where one parent’s income exceeds
$60,000, needs special attention. It needs case specific analysis.
Guidelines in most states do not adequately address
cases in which the obligor, obligee, or both have above average
incomes. Many states have presumptive formulas that apply to all
income and do not have a cost or income ceiling. These states may
have a deviation factor for incomes over a certain level, but it
is still the court’s discretion to honor this suggested ceiling
or not. Even in states with presumptive ceilings, the custodial
parent can argue for higher awards above the guideline. The real
problem is, of course, that there is a lot of money at stake and
guidelines provide too little guidance to the courts to preclude
the likely winner of child support from arguing for awards that
exceed actual costs. In practice, statutory child support ceilings
provide little guarantee for a fair and appropriate award without
proper argument in court.
Without a combination of proper legal argument
(both statutory and case law), and supporting economic exhibits,
a high income non-custodial parent is at risk for an award in excess
Legal issues typically include:
The guideline is rebuttable for situations
in which there is no presumptive ceiling.
The presumptive award must be set aside
when more credible evidence on child costs is shown.
Child support must be based upon the evidence
of actual costs presented to the court.
Child support must be based upon needs and
ability to pay.
Child support cannot be used as an indirect
means to obtain portions of an obligor’s estate.
Child support cannot be used as a means
to circumvent a parent’s right to disinherit a child.
Child support cannot be used to artificially
extend the age at which the duty of support ends.
Yet child support is often used for many of the above, simply because
proper evidence was never submitted.
Economic exhibits supporting a fair and economically reasonable
Comparing case facts to key underlying facts
of the presumptive guidelines, such as whether the guidelines
were designed to apply to high income situations.
Using economic studies on child costs to
rebut the presumptive child cost amount.
For both parents, comparing the before-tax,
before child support award incomes to the presumptive, after-tax,
after-child support award incomes to show that the presumptive
award is excessive and leaves a lower earning custodial parent
better off than a higher income non-custodial parent.
Showing the “salary equivalent”
of the presumptive child support award. That is, how much in
salary income a custodial parent would need to have the same,
additional after-tax income as from non-taxable child support.
For the self-employed obligor or the obligor
with business properties, defining (with exhibits) the economic
basis for “available income” or “ability to
pay” child support in contrast to future income. (Unrealized
Comparing changes in each parent’s
standing in a state’s income distribution, before and
after a child support award.
If their incomes sharply differ, compare
the presumptive award to alternative awards that are based on
a standard of living that is between the custodial and non-custodial
Comparing the relative cost of living for
cases in which the child lives in a area with a significantly
higher or lower cost of living than the obligor. This issue
is especially important for cases in which the child lives in
another country with a substantially different cost of living.
That should rebut the presumptive use of guidelines that all
assume the child lives in the United States.