As I have written before, the federal Child Support Guidelines provide a reliable and predictable means by which the respective child support obligations of parents can be ascertained. In addition to setting out a set of child support Tables that are designed to address myriad circumstances, the Guidelines also itemize those factors that are to be considered in determining an amount, and include sections dedicated to addressing specific custody scenarios.
One of those specific sections of the Guidelines deals with “shared custody”, which is defined as having access or physical custody of a child for “not less than 40 percent of the time over the course of a year.” Once that threshold is met, the court is required to determine the amount of support by taking into account:
- the Guideline Table amount,
- the increased costs of the shared custody arrangement, and
- the condition, means, needs and other circumstance of each parent and of the child.
Each of these factors has equal bearing on the support amount; none of them take precedence over the other, although they may be given different weight in light of the facts. At the end of the day, after giving obligatory consideration to these three factors, the amount of the support obligation imposed on a parent in a shared custody arrangement is left to the court’s discretion.
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