Do I Have to Pay Child Support if I Have my Children Half of the Time?

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In Kentucky, child support is calculated using the statutory guidelines provided in KRS 403.212. These guidelines take into account the monthly gross income of both parents and the number of children requiring support. The base child support obligation is divided between each parent in proportion to their respective incomes. Unfortunately, the child support guidelines were designed so that child support would be paid by the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent and “do not…contemplate a shared custody arrangement.” Plattner v. Plattner, 228 S.W.3d 577, 579 (Ky. App. 2007). In other words, the Kentucky child support guidelines do not take into account shared parenting time.

Courts have the discretion to deviate from the child support guidelines when application would be unjust or inappropriate. KRS 403.211. In cases where parents share parenting time equally, have nearly equal incomes, and share expenditures for child-related expenses nearly equally, the child support guidelines have been held to be inappropriate and unjust under KRS 403.211(3)(g). Dudgeon v. Dudgeon, 318 S.W.3d 106, 107 (Ky. App. 2010).  

However, in cases where there is a disparity between both parents’ income, even if both parents have equal parenting time with the children, the higher income earning parent will usually have an obligation to pay child support to the lower income earning parent. This is because the guidelines were “based on the theory that a child should receive as child support the same proportion of parental income that he or she would have received had the parties lived together as an intact, two parent family.” 16 Louise E. Graham and James E. Keller, Kentucky Practice-Domestic Relations Law § 24:15 (3d ed. 2008).

In situations where there is a disparity in income, courts still have discretion to deviate from the guidelines to adjust the amount of the obligation. Although not required by statute, courts may use their discretion to apply a formula (referred to as the “Colorado Rule”), which accounts for the amount of time spent with each parent and the increased costs of maintaining two separate households for the children.

Although there are guidelines in place, calculating child support is fact intensive and deviations are made on a case-by-case basis. Thus, it is important to discuss your unique circumstances with an experienced family law attorney.

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