If you have a child and are on the brink of divorce, separation, or some other parenting action (like paternity), you likely have concerns about child support payments. Before worrying too much about how much child support will cost, or how much you might get, you should know that the law in Wyoming requires both parents support the child. What this means in actual dollars depends on custody and the income of the parents.
Child support helps cover the cost of raising a child. It continues until the child is 18-years-old, and sometimes longer if the child is still in high school or has a mental or physical disability. Generally, it doesn’t matter if the money is used for school lunches or violin lessons.
The amount of support you have to pay or will receive depends on the number of children you have and the combined income of both parents. Based on these two factors, the state has developed guidelines to determine a fair and reasonable amount of child support. A court must approve the amount, however, and may occasionally deviate from the guidelines if the amount would be unjust or inappropriate.
You must know the net income of both parents before you can calculate child support. Net income is the amount you take home in your paycheck after taxes and other deductions like social security and health insurance costs have been taken out. If you think you don’t have any income because you don’t earn a paycheck, think again. In Wyoming, income for child support also includes unemployment benefits, most worker’s compensation payments, and retirement benefits, among other things. Also, if you are voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, then a court could derive a potential income based on what you could be making.
Apart from the financial resources above, there are some items that fall outside of the scope of income. Besides personal income taxes, social security, and health insurance premiums, you can also exclude other court-ordered support (like alimony) to arrive at your net income. Also, any means-tested resources, like Pell grants, food stamps, and the POWER program are not included when calculating your net income.
Once you know the income for both parents, you can apply it to the state’s guidelines to find the specific amount due. The guidelines are a formula used to determine support payments. Although the following gives an explanation on how to use the guidelines, you will have to look at the guidelines yourself to see how much your support payments will be. The link is included below.
First, count your kids. Let’s say you have two with the same parent. Then, take your net income. For example, say your net income is $1,500 a month. Add your net income to the other parent’s net income – we’ll use $1,000 for this parent’s income – so the total amount of net income is $2,500 ($1,500 + $1,000). Once you have these numbers (how many kids and how much income), look to the guidelines.
According to the guidelines, for two kids, you must pay between 20% to 36.8% of your net income, plus an additional percentage of any income above a certain baseline amount. The baseline for our example net income of $2,500) is $2,083. The percentage of child support due on $2,083 is 35%. For every dollar above $2,083 – in our example, $417 – 31.9% of this amount must go to child support.
As calculated, it looks like this:
$2,083 x 35%=$729
$417 x 31.9%=$133
$729 + $133 = $862.
$862 is the total amount of child support due every month. Does that mean you must pay $862 per month or that the other parent has to pay you $862 per month? No, on both accounts.
You will have to provide a pro-rated share of $862 based on your individual income. Recall that your income in this example is $1,500 a month while the other parent has $1,000. Your income ($1,500) makes up 60% of $2,500. So you would be responsible for 60% of $862, which is $517. The other parent is responsible for 40% of $862, which is $345. Whether you are the one making payments or accepting them depends on your specific custody arrangement.
It becomes slightly trickier in cases where each parent keeps the child overnight for more than 40% of the year and contributes substantially to the cost of raising a child, or where each parent has physical custody of at least one of the children. In those situations, the amount of time a child spends with a parent (say, 45% with one parent versus 55% with the other) or the number of children per parent (2 kids stay with one parent while 1 stays with the other) matters and payments will be shifted to give more to the parent with greater responsibility.
In the event the parents’ combined income is less than $833, then the non-custodial parent (the one with less than 50% physical custody), must pay 25% of net income, with one exception. Payments must be at least $50 a month. So if this parent makes less than $200 a month, $50 would be due even though it is more than 25% of net income.
A court will presume that the child support payment provided by the guidelines is the one that should be ordered. Parents, however, can agree to pay more than what the guidelines propose. They can’t agree to pay less. Also, a court could either reduce or increase the amount of child support if the guidelines render an amount that is unjust or inappropriate for one or both parents to pay.
When asked to reconsider a child support payment before an order is in place, a court will evaluate the fairness of a guidelines-result based on factors including the child’s age, cost of day care, transportation costs, and any special health or educational needs. A court also looks at the parents’ responsibilities to other children, the value of services contributed by either parent, and the parents’ ability to provide health insurance through employment benefits. Additionally, a court considers the parents’ relationship to each other, the expense of pregnancy, the amount of time the child spends with each parent, any other necessary expense for the child, and whether a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed.
Once a court makes a child support order, it can be modified at any time if a parent experiences a substantial change in circumstances. A change is substantial if there would be a 20% change in the amount of child support. For example, the paying parent loses a job or the receiving parent wins the lottery.
You can read the law on child support in the Wyoming State Statutes, Sections 20-2-301 through 315. You can find an online calculator for child support guidelines in Wyoming’s Forms and Procedures packet. You can read about enforcement of child support orders on Wyoming’s Department of Family Services website.