Child Support Laws in Utah
Learn about the rules governing child support in Utah.
Both Parents are Responsible for Child Support
In Utah, the law requires that both parents financially support their child (or children). The amount of support that each parent has to pay depends on the number of children, the income of both parents, and the custody arrangement. You can estimate your fair share of support by using the state’s child support guidelines.
The guidelines are simply a fee schedule, or formula. Parents are free to pay more than the amount given by the guidelines, but not less, and a court must approve the amount. Although a court presumes that the number given by the guidelines is the appropriate amount of child support, there are circumstances where the result would be unfair to a parent or the child. In those cases, a court will review a set of factors and may adjust the amount of support either up or down.
How to use the Guidelines
use the guidelines, the first thing you need to have is the adjusted
gross income of both parents. To calculate adjusted gross income, take
all income from all sources. This includes salaries and wages, but also
bonuses, rents, income from a trust, and capital gains. Among other
things, it also includes alimony you receive from previous marriages,
social security benefits, and unemployment compensation. Gifts and
prizes count too. There are a few benefits that you can leave out like
general assistance, housing subsidies, or welfare benefits. For a list
of what to include in your calculations, see the Utah Code 78B-12-203.
In situations where a parent is purposefully unemployed or underemployed to avoid making support payments, a court can impute an income based on past and current earnings. Income will not be imputed, however, for a custodial parent who stays home to meet a child’s specific needs, or if the cost of childcare would be the same as the income this parent would make.
You also need to know how much time each parent will spend with the child. There are a variety of ways to share parenting time, but the guidelines calculate support differently whether you have sole custody (the child lives with only one parent), joint custody (the child lives part time with each parent), or split custody (where the parents divide the kids between them – mom takes the older child while dad has the younger child, for example).
Once you determine both parents’ adjusted gross incomes and custody, look to the base combined child support obligation table. These are the guidelines for a combined income between $726 a month to $24,000 a month. If the noncustodial parent has an adjusted gross income of $649 or less, or if the combined income is between $650 and $1,050, then you may need to use the low income table. Keep in mind that a court will have to review this number, but the minimum amount of support is $30. On the other hand, if the parents’ combined income is greater than $24,000, then a court may increase the amount over the maximum allowed by the base combined child support obligation table.
The guidelines give you a total amount of child support due. After you have that number, you can calculate what each parent’s share of that amount will be.
For sole custody, use this calculator.
For joint custody, use this calculator.
For split custody, use this calculator.
If a parent has additional children in the home who are not covered by this child support action – children of a prior marriage, for example – then there are additional calculations to be made. You can read more about that here, on Utah’s State Court website.
Additionally, one or both of you will have to cover medical expenses, insurance coverage, and childcare too.
Challenging the Amount
Sometimes, the total amount given by the guidelines or the way that number is divided between the parents is unfair. If you think support should be increased or decreased before the court issues the order, then you can ask a court to adjust it. Once you ask, a court will review all relevant factors, but especially the following, to adjust the amount of child support either up or down:
- the parents’ standard of living and situation
- the parents’ relative wealth and income
- the ability of the paying parent to earn
- the ability of the receiving parent to earn
- the ability of an incapacitated adult child to earn, or the child’s benefits
- the needs of both parents and the child
- the parents’ ages, and
- whether either parent supports others.
Modifying the Amount
Once a child support order is in place, you can still ask the court to modify (change) it at any time, but this will require a different process. If it’s been less than three years since the original order was issued or modified, then you must have a substantial change in circumstances. Usually, a substantial change is a significant shift in custody or an increase or decrease of 30% in income, but there can be other reasons. The threshold is lower if an order has been in place for three years or more. You can read more about this on Utah’s State Court website under Grounds to Modify Child Support.
You can read the law on child support in the Utah Child Support Act – Utah Code Title 78B, Chapter 12. Here too, are the Calculators. To enforce a child support order, visit Utah’s Department of Human Services, Office of Recovery Services.