Child Support in Connecticut

State law governs how child support in Connecticut is calculated, modified, and enforced.

Updated by , Attorney

If you're a Connecticut parent going through a divorce, or if you've never been married to your child's other parent and have decided to end the relationship, you are obligated to continue to support your child after the split. For most parents, this means having to become familiar with Connecticut's child support guidelines.

Connecticut uses the "Income Shares Model" to calculate child support: First, the court estimates the amount the parents would spend on the child when both parents and the child live together in one household (as if the family were still intact). Second, the court allocates this amount between the parents based on their incomes.

Connecticut Child Support Guidelines

Judges in Connecticut refer to the current version of the Connecticut Child Support and Arrearage Guidelines (the "Guidelines") to calculate child support payments. (Conn. Agencies Regs. § 46b-215a-2c (2022).) If either you or your child's other parent have primary physical custody, and the other has a fairly standard visitation schedule (alternating weekends and holidays, some vacation time, and possibly some additional short visits), you can estimate the noncustodial parent's child support obligation by reviewing the guidelines and completing the Worksheet for the Connecticut Child Support and Arrearage Guidelines. (Conn. Agencies Regs. § 46b-215a-6 (2022).) You might also find it helpful to enter your information into an online child support calculator to get an estimate.

These guidelines are fairly complicated, so if you find yourself having trouble wading through all of the calculations, you should contact an attorney for help.

Calculating Income for Purposes of Child Support in Connecticut

The starting point for calculating child support under the Guidelines is based on the combined net income—gross income minus allowable deductions—of both parents. Gross income includes most types of earned or unearned income. Common examples are wages, commissions, self-employment income, bonuses, dividend or interest income, rent, workers' compensation or unemployment insurance benefits, and pension or retirement benefits. It doesn't include child support a parent receives for children from other relationships, public assistance, or Supplemental Security Income. The guidelines include a complete definition of gross income.

After you have added up your gross income, you can deduct the following specific expenses to get your net income:

  • income tax payments
  • medical, hospital or dental insurance premiums for you and your legal dependents
  • premiums for court-ordered life insurance held for the child's benefit
  • court ordered disability insurance premiums
  • court-ordered alimony or child support you pay for other dependents (not including "arrearages" meaning overdue child support payments)
  • mandatory union dues and fees for uniforms and tools (to the extent that your employer deducts these items)
  • social security tax payments
  • mandatory retirement contributions, and
  • Medicare tax payments.

If you have children from other relationships currently living with you, you might also be able to deduct an amount for their support. The Guidelines include a complete explanation of how to calculate deductions.

Calculating Your Estimated Child Support Payment in Connecticut

To get the basic child support figure, you'll have to add both parents' net weekly incomes together, and match the total amount with the column containing the applicable number of children in the Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations.

The current version of this schedule is included within the Guidelines (scroll down in the document to find the tables). For example, if the total net weekly income is $1,000, the basic child support amount for one child would be $229 according to the schedule.

Next, to find each parent's share of the support amount ($229) you'll divide each parent's income by the total combined income. For example:

  • If the noncustodial parent earns $600 a week, you'd divide that $600 by the total net weekly income of $1,000 ($600/$1000 = .60) to get the percentage of support they are responsible for. So in this example, the noncustodial parent would be responsible for 60% of the $229 support amount: $137.40.
  • If the custodial parent earns $400 a week, you'd divide that $400 by total net weekly income of $1,000 to get the percentage of support they are responsible for ($400/$1,000 = .40). So in this example, the custodial parent would be responsible for 40% of the $229 support amount: $91.60.

Although the Worksheet calculations will give you a support amount for each parent, only the noncustodial parent pays the support amount, because courts presume that the custodial parent's share is already going toward the direct costs of raising children.

If a child is receiving social security dependency benefits on the earnings record of a noncustodial parent, you should subtract the weekly benefit amount from the support obligation.

Adjustments for Expenses

After determining the basic child support obligation, you can use the Worksheet to calculate adjustments for unreimbursed medical expenses, necessary child care, and payment of support arrearages. These items are pro-rated on the basis of the parents' "net disposable incomes"—the money they each have available to spend.

Determining net disposable income requires first adding or subtracting from each parent's adjusted net income the current child support payment, and any social security dependency benefit.

Deviations from Guidelines

In some cases courts may order an amount different from the guideline amount (called a "deviation"). A court might find that a deviation is fair when:

  • a parent has financial resources that aren't included in the definition of net income
  • the child has extraordinary expenses related to education, special needs, or medical needs
  • one of the parents has extraordinary visitation expenses or unreimbursed medical, disability, or employment-related expenses
  • a parent has other dependents whose needs must be accounted for
  • other considerations during divorce, such as division of assets and liabilities, are relevant to the determination, or
  • there are other special circumstances, such as when the parents share custody or one of the parents makes much more than the other.

The guidelines include detailed information on calculating adjustments and deviations. A deviation may also be in order if the total child support award is more than 55% of the net income of the parent obligated to pay support. Judges must explain their reasons for deviating from the support guidelines. (Conn. Agencies Regs. § 46b-215a-5c (2022).)

Shared Physical Custody

Parents share physical custody if they each spend substantially more time with a child than the standard visitation schedule described above. There is no absolute number of days required—exactly equal time isn't necessary, only something approaching equal time.

A court will sometimes reduce the non-custodial parent's payment in a shared custody arrangement, but only if the parenting arrangement actually changes the way the parents divide expenses. In other words, if the parents share time almost equally, but the custodial parent still pays for the majority of child-related expenses, the court won't order a reduction. The reduction also can't be so much that the custodial parent won't have enough money left to meet the child's basic needs.

Split Custody

"Split custody" means that each parent has primary custody of at least one child. In this type of arrangement, parents must calculate each parent's support obligation on separate Worksheets. After subtracting the lower obligation from the higher obligation, the parent with the higher obligation pays the difference to the other parent.

Imputing or Attributing Income

Sadly, some parents try to avoid their child support obligation by quitting a job or failing to conduct an adequate job search. For example, one parent might quit a good paying, highly-skilled job to take a lower paying position under the mistaken belief that this will relieve them of their child support payments. Judges are expert at spotting this behavior, and don't take kindly to it.

If a judge finds either parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, it may "impute" or "attribute" income to the parent. This means that rather than consider the income of a lower paying job, the judge will estimate the parent's potential earning capacity (what the parent could earn in light of factors such as work history, training, education, and available jobs in the area) and calculate child support based on that earning capacity.

Modification and Termination of Connecticut Child Support

Once a court has made an initial child support order, a parent who wants to modify (change) the support order must show a substantial change in circumstances. Some examples of changes that might justify modification would be one parent's getting a much higher paying job or the parents making a permanent change in the number of days per week that each of them spends with a child.

Courts will generally presume that a modification is appropriate if the difference between an existing award and the amount determined by a new analysis and application of the current guidelines varies by more than 15%. This isn't automatic, however, and even a 15% variation won't justify a change in the support order in every situation. (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-86 (2022).)

When Can a Parent Stop Paying Child Support in Connecticut?

In Connecticut, the obligation to pay child support normally continues until a child who has finished high school turns 18, or until a full-time high school student completes twelfth grade or turns 19, whichever occurs first. (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-84(b) (2022).)

The court can order continuing support of a child with a disability until the child reaches age 21. (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-84(c) (2022).)

A court may also order a parent to contribute to expenses for a child between the ages of 18 and 23 who is attending a post-secondary school (either college or a similar type of educational program) full-time. (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-56c (2022).)

Enforcing Child Support Orders in Connecticut

The Support Enforcement Services (SES) of the Connecticut judicial branch is responsible for helping parents enforce child support orders, including locating absent parents and establishing paternity, if necessary. More information about these services is available on its website.

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