If you and your partner have children and decide to divorce, the issue of child support is likely to be high on the list of discussion topics for the terms of separation.
How will you meet the everyday needs of your children when you are separated?
Your parental obligations do not end with your marriage, and the welfare of the children is always the primary consideration for the courts when it comes to family separations in Maine.
Child support is considered such a key issue that an entire set of guidelines and calculators are available to help you work out the correct amounts.
Maine adopts the income shares model, whereby an allocation of each parent’s income is expected to look after the financial needs of the child. For this, costs must be estimated according to those incurred when the family was intact and living together.
Each parent is responsible for a percentage of the total support obligation based on the share of the total combined gross income they earn. The obligation may vary depending on the age of the child and other factors, and which parent pays support is dependent upon the custody arrangement and visitation schedule.
This child support guide sets out most of what you need to know for your family. If you need assistance regarding your child support obligations, speak to a child support attorney at The Maine Divorce Group.
Parents can work out child support and include it in a divorce settlement, but before it becomes legally binding, a judge will need to approve it. The agreement must be in the child’s best interests for court approval.
The key calculation to make for child support in Maine is the gross income of both parents. To calculate this, you will need to include all pretax income, both earned and unearned, including:
You cannot lower your child support obligations by choosing not to work or to work at a lower-paying job than you are qualified.
The court in Maine will assess your employment history and the current employment landscape and has the power to assign additional potential income. This is often called “imputing income” and it will increase the child support obligation accordingly in such cases.
Parents in Maine can estimate child support amounts using the Child Support Worksheet.
After filling in the worksheet, you will be able to view the amount of support that the courts would award in your case, assuming all the information provided is accurate.
In Maine, the parent without primary physical custody generally pays support, i.e., the parent with whom the child does not usually live or spends less than 50 percent of the time.
The primary physical custody parent is presumed to meet their child support obligations in paying for the costs of day-to-day care and welfare of the child.
In the rare cases when a child spends exactly half the time with each parent or both parents provide almost equal childcare (including meeting the costs of education, recreation, medical needs, etc.), there is a special, shared parenting calculation that requires a supplemental worksheet in addition to the child support worksheet.
You will also need to fill in a Child Support Affidavit when you submit the information to the court.
The child support amount calculated in the Child Support Worksheet is the basic support obligation for the noncustodial parent. This covers the basic everyday needs of the child, such as food, clothing, and shelter.
Other expenses are incurred as a child grows, and the noncustodial parent is also responsible for paying a fair share of these. This includes the costs of childcare, extraordinary medical or dental expenses, special educational needs, health insurance, etc.
If one parent is currently paying more than his or her fair share of these costs (according to the percentage of the combined gross income earned), the judge may adjust the noncustodial parent’s support obligation accordingly.
As well as additional expenses, other factors may affect the child support obligation. Generally speaking, the guidelines are closely followed by judges in Maine, but they can exercise discretion and consider a wide range of other factors when assessing each parent’s support obligation.
Some factors include:
Once the judge has approved the child support arrangements and issued the order, it is legally binding. The noncustodial parent is expected to adhere to the payment schedule that it outlines.
However, the law recognizes that circumstances for parents and their children can and do change over time.
Modifications of orders can be made – but only by application through the court and only if a substantial and ongoing change in circumstances can be demonstrated. This might include the loss of a job, a promotion, or an interstate/international relocation, for instance.
In general, a judge may consider a modification if the difference between the existing award and a potential new award is greater than 15 percent.
In Maine, the child support obligation ordinarily ends when a child reaches the age of majority by turning 18, but this can be extended by court action.
Parents can file a request to modify child support at any time but unless there is a substantial change or the order is over three years old already, it is unlikely to be adjusted.
If either parent remarries, this alone does not constitute a substantial change in circumstances.
However, say the custodial parent remarries and is then provided with support in raising the child by the new spouse (there is no legal duty to do this). This may constitute a substantial enough change to warrant a modification of support, but it will depend on how much the additional help with everyday expenses covers the costs of raising the child.
Additional income from a new spouse can be considered a part of either parent’s overall household income, so if the noncustodial parent remarries, the child support obligation of that parent may be increased by a judge because of the lower household expenses incurred.
If the new marriage results in children, the judge may need to adjust support to balance the needs of both families.
Child support cases – and modification requests – involve many factors, and no two are exactly the same. For assistance with your situation, contact a child support attorney at The Maine Divorce Group.
The following forms are for a ‘Motion to Modify’:
Whether you are in the process of getting divorced, merely thinking about getting divorced, or you need to modify child support orders, lawyers from The Maine Divorce Group are ready to help you.
We know how life-changing these orders can be for both sides.
It is imperative that you have the representation of an attorney who knows the law and is willing to fight for your rights. You can find that attorney at our firm. Contact us today to meet with one of our lawyers and find out how they can help.
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