How Do Courts Determine the Amount of Child Support?
Published April 15, 2020

Chan P Townsley

Attorney at Law


How Do Courts Determine the Amount of Child Support?

When a domestic court is faced with a proceeding involving children, the court is required to consider the issue of child support. Courts in Kansas are required to follow the Kansas Child Support Guidelines adopted by the Kansas Supreme Court. The Guidelines are revised every several years, and set the presumptive amount of child support used by the courts, as well as all related terms and factors.

                This formula is pretty simple:  the court establishes the annual and/or monthly gross income of the father; AND adds to that the annual and/or monthly gross income of the mother.  The court also determines how many children must be legally supported by each parent, and the ages of the children.  The Child Support Guidelines provide a table stating how much monthly support is required based on that information. The Guidelines factor-in estimated tax obligations, and factor available tax credits, depending on who claims the children.

                Generally, courts adhere closely to the Guidelines. Courts can modify the amount of support required by the Guidelines when there is sufficient convincing evidence that modification is in the “best interest of the children.” 

                There are several important rules about child support.  First:  Child support belongs to the child.  That is why parents cannot simply waive child support between themselves or bargain between themselves regarding the amount of support.  Courts will instead impose child support obligations based on the Guidelines.  Parents need to position their support claims/arguments on the Guideline factors.  Courts are usually willing to exercise much discretion within the Guideline factors.

                Second:  Because child support is based on your income, if you experience any changes in income, you should immediately consider whether to seek modification of your child support requirement. Both parents are required to report any changes that would increase or decrease the monthly obligation by 10% or more.     

                Third:  Child support may not be modified retroactively.  Each payment is generally deemed a “final judgment” on the due date.   This is what makes the second rule above so important.  It means if you lost your income three months ago, but did not timely file a motion to modify the support obligation, you will not be able to have the obligation reduced for those prior months, and will owe the full amount, even though you qualified for modification.  You will be able to have the obligation reduced going forward.

                The only time child support can be “modified” retroactively -and it is really a sanction, not a modification of support- is when the party owing child support has an increase in income, and therefore should pay more support, but that party fails to advise of the increased income.  Failure to properly report a change in income sufficient to result in a 10% (or greater) change in the child support obligation may be sanctioned by an amount that is equal to the “missed” payments.  But such a sanction is at the discretion of the court, and usually requires substantial evidence and costly evidentiary hearings.  And no sanction will be available if the other party’s’ income changed, and you were aware of the change but did nothing.  If you are aware of a basis to increase the amount of child support you are owed, you have the obligation to seek modification of the existing order. The other party’s obligation is to inform you, not to seek a change with the court.

For the above reasons, it is far easier to seek timely modification of child support at the time of any change in financial circumstances.  There will most likely be a prohibition against any modifications that are not timely.  Child support obligations are routinely modified on the basis of changes in income and changes in age of the children.  To avoid lost support income, or making overpayments, it is important to keep up with the financial circumstances of each parent, and to timely seek modifications of support orders when warranted by changes in circumstances.  


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