The Child Support Formula used by the Family Court in the State of Delaware to calculate a parent’s child support obligation is updated every four years, with the most recent revisions going into effect on January 1, 2015. It is important to know how the Child Support Formula has changed to understand how it may impact your family situation. You can then make an educated decision about whether to file a Petition for Modification of Child Support, based on the most recent updates.
Every 2.5 years, either parent may file a petition to modify child support, seeking either an increase or decrease in the support obligation. If your child support order was issued within the last 2.5 years, a petition to modify child support may be filed only if there has been a "substantial change in circumstances" through no fault of the petitioning parent and so long as the resulting obligation increases or decreases by 10% or more. Substantial changes include changes to income, health insurance cost or availability, daycare or private school tuition, number of minor children ordered to support, or the number of other minor children to support. Leaving a second job is not a substantial change in circumstance.
The Child Support Formula is a rebuttable presumption. Every new petition is initially scheduled for mediation, unless there is a history of domestic violence between the parents. The mediator will run a child support calculation, inputting the parents’ income and deductions into the Child Support Formula. If no agreement is reached, a hearing before a commissioner is scheduled. The commissioner will take evidence on the parties’ income and deductions and run a child support calculation using the Child Support Formula, just like the mediator before him or her. Only in rare circumstances has the Family Court found that a parent has successfully rebutted the presumption of the Child Support Formula over the other parent’s objection and entered a child support obligation based on something other than the Child Support Formula.
The Child Support Formula is evaluated and updated every four years, with the most recent updates going into effect January 1, 2015. The Family Court will use the revised Child Support Formula to calculate any child support order entered after January 1, 2015, irrespective of whether it is a Petition for Support or a Petition for Modification of Child Support. Here are some of the significant changes in 2015:
A parent now receives the same allowance for supporting one minor child who is not at issue in the support order as two or more children. The Child Support Formula has long recognized adjustments for support that parents provide to other minor children who are not of the current union. The Child Support Formula reduces the amount of available income a parent has to support the child(ren) at issue in the petition by taking into consideration other minor child(ren) a parent may have from other relationship(s). Prior to this revision, the Court multiplied the parent's available income by 83% if there was one other child, 73% if there were two other children, and 67% for three or more children. Under the revised Child Support Formula, a 70% adjustment is made for one or more other children.
The number of overnights to trigger a "parenting time adjustment" for the support payer has been revised. Prior to January 1, 2015, a parent may be entitled to a 10%, 20%, 30%, or 40% adjustment to his/her support obligation based on the number of overnights the child(ren) spend(s) with the parent. The requirement for a parenting time adjustment has been simplified under the revised Child Support Formula to the following: 80 to 124 overnights per year for a 10% adjustment and 125 to 163 overnights per year for a 30% adjustment. The revisions allow parents more flexibility with the visitation schedule without fear of implicating the child support order. The revised Child Support Formula also lowered the number of overnights to establish "shared placement" from 175 to 164 per year.
The revised Child Support Formula eliminates "de minimis" orders of support in shared placement arrangements. In cases where parents have equal incomes and allowable expenses, no support is paid by either parent to the other. With near-equal income, the result can be a very low “net” order that one parent is required to pay the other. In light of the administrative cost of collecting and disbursing these amounts, and the minimal benefit the children derive from their payment, an obligation of less than $50 per month is considered "de minimis" and the Court will enter a zero order.
Every parent will be presumed to have a minimum monthly gross earning capacity of not less than $8.25 per hour, 40 hours per week ($1430 per month) as of January 1, 2015. Except for shared placement arrangements, a minimum order for one child is now $100 per month and two or more children is $160 per month. The "minimum gross earning capacity" is adjusted biannually to remain consistent with minimum wage.
There is no longer a requirement that the support recipient pay the first $350 of unreimbursed medical expenses annually. Except where parents share placement of their child(ren), the child support recipient was previously responsible for the first $350 of the child(ren)’s unreimbursed medical expenses each calendar year. The remainder was divided between the parties pursuant to their respective primary percentage shares of total net available income. The Court felt this created difficult accounting issues for parents with little added benefit. The revised Child support formula now issues responsibility for all unreimbursed medical expenses in accordance with the primary shares, as is the current practice for parents sharing placement of their children.
You should consult with an attorney to see if you would benefit from a modification of your current support order based on the newly revised Child Support Formula. The Family Court also provides an online tool to give you an idea of what your child support payment may be under the newly revised Formula.