In some circumstances, children will be split between their parents’ homes. In other cases, the children do not reside primarily with one parent and, instead, spend roughly equal amounts of time with both parents. This article discusses how child support is determined in these Split Custody and Shared Custody arrangements.
In a “split custody” arrangement, one or more children live with Mom and one or more children live with Dad. In these cases, “differential child support” applies. To determine this amount, we must first determine what Mom owes to Dad using her income, the number of children in Dad’s care, and the Child Support Guidelines. We must then determine what Dad owes to Mom using the same formula. The difference between the two amounts is called the “differential”.
For example, if Mom owes Dad $500/month in child support and Dad owes Mom $600/month, Dad would end up paying Mom $100/month as that is the difference between the two of them.
In a “shared custody” arrangement, the children are in the care of each parent no less than 40% of the time. The legislation is somewhat unclear on how child support is impacted in these situations and I have had a judge tell me that these are the most dreaded matters to be heard at court.
Essentially, the starting point is to find the differential child support amount. Then, the legislation says we must consider the “increased costs of shared custody arrangements” and the “conditions, means, needs and other circumstances of each spouse and of any child for whom support is sought”. The case law shows a hodgepodge of results, some higher than the differential, some lower, some right on the button. There appears to be very little rhyme or reason to the discrepancies in the results. As the amount is at the discretion of the judge, there is no certain way to predict the outcome.
As a result of the unpredictable nature of shared custody child support issues, many parents often agree to simply use the differential amount. The benefit to this (aside from avoiding costly court appearances and protracted negotiations) is that the parents are then easily able to adjust the support amount as their incomes change from year to year.
To learn more about these unique child support issues, please contact us to book a consultation.