Child Support in Connecticut

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

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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.

Connecticut 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.

Calculating Income for Purposes of Child Support in Connecticut

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:

  • 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 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 when calculating the initial amount of child 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, 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:

  • If the noncustodial parent earns $600 a week, divide that $600 by the total net weekly income of $1,000 ($600/$1000 = .60) to get the percentage of that parent's support obligation. 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, divide that $400 by total net weekly income of $1,000 to get the percentage of that parent's support obligation ($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 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.

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, 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:

  • a parent has certain 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. (Conn. Agencies Regs. § 46b-215a-5c (2023).)

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 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

"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 Child Support in Connecticut

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:

  • either parent has experienced a substantial change of circumstances since the existing order was issued, or
  • the existing order substantially deviates from the current guidelines (unless the order specifically stated that application of the guidelines would be inappropriate or unjust).

The law presumes that:

  • it's a substantial deviation if application of the current guidelines would result in a support amount that's at least 15% different than the current order, and
  • it's not a substantial deviation if the difference would be less than 15%.

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).)

Can Child Support Be Modified in Connecticut Because of a Parent's Remarriage?

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:

  • Regular contributions or gifts from a parent's new spouse may count as other financial resources (one of the reasons for a deviation, as discussed above), but only if that parent reduced their income or had an "extraordinary" reduction in living expenses as a result of those contributions.
  • When calculating income under the guidelines, you may deduct your support obligation for dependent children who are living with you and aren't included in a support order. But you may only take this deduction when calculating the initial support order or when you're opposing the other parent's modification request. You may not claim that deduction for a child from a new marriage when requesting a modification.
  • Similarly, if you're paying child support and have a new spouse with significant and essential needs, you may only rely on those additional expenses when defending against your ex's request for an increase in support—not as a reason to decrease the existing support payments.

(Conn. Agencies Regs. § 46b-215a-5c (2023).)

When Does Child Support End 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.

Connecticut judges may also order:

  • continuing support for a child with a disability, but only until the child turns 21, or
  • educational support, requiring a parent to pay support for a child who's attending college or post-secondary vocational school at least half time, but not beyond the child's 23rd birthday.

(Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 46b-56c, 46b-84 (2023).)

Getting Help With Collecting Child Support

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.

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