Whether you're getting divorced or were never married to your child's other parent, you're obligated to continue supporting your child. For most parents, this means having to become familiar with Connecticut's child support guidelines.
Judges in Connecticut refer to the current version of the Connecticut Child Support and Arrearage Guidelines to calculate child support payments. (Conn. Agencies Regs. § 46b-215a-2c (2023).) Using the "Income Shares Model," the guidelines estimate how much the parents would spend on the child as if the family were still intact and then divide that amount between the parents based on their incomes.
If either parent has primary physical custody, and the other parent has a fairly standard visitation schedule (alternating weekends and holidays, plus some vacation time and 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 (2023).)
These guidelines are fairly complicated, and it can be difficult to wade through all the calculations. But if you and your spouse will have an uncontested divorce and choose to file for divorce online, a reputable online divorce service should walk you through the process and do the calculations for you, based on your answers to a questionnaire. Otherwise, you may want to contact an attorney for help.
The starting point for calculating child support under the guidelines is based on both parents' combined net income—gross income minus allowable deductions.
The guidelines include a complete definition of gross income. Generally, it includes most types of earned or unearned income, such as wages, commissions, self-employment income, bonuses, dividend or interest income, rent, workers' compensation or unemployment insurance benefits, and pension or retirement benefits. But gross income doesn't include child support a parent receives for children from other relationships, public assistance, or Supplemental Security Income.
To get net income, you may deduct the following expenses from total gross income:
If you have children from other relationships currently living with you, you might also be able to deduct an amount for their support when calculating the initial amount of child support. The guidelines include a complete explanation of how to calculate deductions.
To get the basic child support figure, add together both parents' net weekly incomes and match the combined total with the column containing the applicable number of children in the Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations (which is included in the guidelines).
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 (as of 2023).
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:
Although the worksheet calculations will give you a support amount for each parent, only the noncustodial parent pays the support amount, because the guidelines assume 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.
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.
In some cases, judges may order an amount of child support that's different from the guideline amount (called a "deviation"). A judge might find that a deviation is fair when:
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. (Conn. Agencies Regs. § 46b-215a-5c (2023).)
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 noncustodial 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" 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.
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.
Connecticut law allows you to request a change (modification) of your existing child support order. But you'll need to show that either of the following is true:
The law presumes that:
But the 15% threshold isn't automatic, and even a greater variation won't necessarily justify a change in the support order in every situation. (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-86 (2023).)
If you're paying child support, you won't be able to lower your payments just because you have a new spouse and family, or just because your ex has remarried. The Connecticut Supreme Court has held that either parent's remarriage, by itself, isn't a change of circumstances warranting a child support modification. (Bozzi v. Bozzi, 413 A.2d 834 (Conn. 1979).)
Still, certain changes related to either parent's remarriage might qualify as a deviation from the guidelines—and therefore might warrant a modification of current child support. But Connecticut's rules place strict limits on how that would work. For instance:
(Conn. Agencies Regs. § 46b-215a-5c (2023).)
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.
Connecticut judges may also order:
There are various ways to enforce child support in Connecticut if your ex is behind on payments. Among other things, you could file a motion for contempt or ask for help from Connecticut's Support Enforcement Services.