Child Support Laws in Utah

Learn about the rules governing child support in Utah.

Utah law requires both parents to financially support their child (or children). The amount of support that each parent pays will depend on the parents’ income, custody arrangement, and the number of children involved.

Because there are a variety of factors that impact support, it can be difficult to figure out an exact amount on your own. Parents can use the Utah child support calculator to estimate a support obligation. However, a judge will determine the final child support amount in your case.

The Utah Child Support Guidelines are simply a fee schedule, or formula. Parents can agree 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 down or up.

Using the Utah Child Support Guidelines

To use the guidelines, you’ll need to know the adjusted gross income of both parents. A parent’s gross income is income from all sources, including:

  • salaries and wages
  • bonuses
  • rents
  • income from a trust
  • pensions
  • military pay
  • alimony received
  • social security benefits
  • unemployment compensation, and
  • gifts and prizes.

There are a few benefits that you can leave out, such as general assistance, housing subsidies, and welfare benefits. For a list of what to include in your calculations, see the Utah Code § 78B-12-203 (2020).

In situations where a parent is purposefully unemployed or underemployed to avoid making support payments, a court can impute a higher income based on the parent’s 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 for parents with “sole physical 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). If you have additional questions about the impact of custody on support, the Utah Courts website has a section on parent-time and custody.

Once you’ve determined both parents’ adjusted gross incomes and custody, look to the base combined child support obligation table. These are the guidelines for a combined income from $726 through $100,000 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, to ensure it’s in the child’s best interests, but the minimum amount of support is $30. On the other hand, if the parents’ combined income is greater than $100,000, 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. There are additional calculations to be made, often referred to as "add ons,"—one or both of you will have to cover medical expenses, health insurance, and childcare costs too.

Challenging the Amount

Sometimes, the total amount of child support 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.

Collecting Child Support and Enforcement

With a child support order in place, collecting your monthly payment from the other parent may be easy. Parents can pay support in whatever form is most convenient, including cash, check, bank transfer, direct deposit, money order, or by using payment apps, such as Venmo. If you’re having trouble collecting child support, you can contact Utah’s Office of Recovery Services for help at 801-536-8500.

Modifying the Amount of Support in Utah

Once a child support order is in place, you can 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.

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