Parents have an obligation to provide support to their minor children. This is true whether or not the parents of the minor child are married. Parents that are divorced—or those who were never married—can face a court-ordered obligation to pay child support to their co-parent.
If you are involved in a child support dispute, it is helpful to understand how the court makes these calculations. While there is a formula used by judges in child support cases, the court has leeway in setting the amount. An experienced divorce lawyer from Olson & Sons could advise you on how they calculate child support in Hawaii, and how those calculations could impact you.
Understanding Hawaii Child Support Guidelines
Calculating child support obligations in Hawaii starts with a formula. This formula, which can be found on Hawaii’s Child Support Guidelines Worksheet, uses two important pieces of information for each parent when determining a child support obligation. These pieces of information are each parent’s gross income and net income.
Your gross income counts for every source of income you have. This starts with your salary or wages but includes other forms of compensation for the work you perform. Some examples include bonuses, overtime, royalties, or pensions.
Gross income takes into account more than the income you earn at work. Even if you are unemployed, you likely still have the gross income to report. Financial resources like disability or unemployment benefits are also taken into account.
Once you have calculated your gross wages, the next step is to establish your net income. This is your gross wages minus any allowable deductions. These deductions include things like income tax, spousal support, or pre-existing child support obligations.
The final aspect of this process is the custody arrangement. The amount of time each parent spends with a child will have a major impact on the amount of support ordered by the court. The guidelines take into account whether parents share time equally, or if one parent has more time than the other. Then, the calculation takes all of these factors into account when making a recommendation for support.
You Can Challenge the Recommended Support Amount
The recommendation made by the child support guidelines is not set in stone. You have the right to challenge the recommended support amount before it is finalized by the court. Either parent has the right to challenge these recommendations for being either too high or too low.
The court will not always agree to deviate from child support guidelines in a specific case. Instead, a judge will consider each request on a case-by-case basis. The court has leeway when making the decision from deviating from the recommended amount.
There are different reasons why the court might agree to this type of deviation. For example, a parent could claim that the suggested amount would wipe out the bulk of their net income, leaving them without the resources needed to survive. Alternatively, a parent could say that circumstances that are not factored in by the guidelines require more support than what is recommended. For example, a child with special needs might require additional support than most children.
Modifying the Support Amount in Hawaii
When the court makes a determination in a child support case, the order issued by the court is considered final. That does not mean the terms can never be changed. It is possible for the court to amend or terminate child support agreements after their written order is entered.
A modification of the child support obligation is not always an option—especially if not a lot of time has passed since the entry of the original order. If less than three years have passed since the original order, a parent must show that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred.
A substantial change in circumstances could involve changes in the lives of either parent or the child in question. Typically, the court considers a substantial change to result in an increase or decrease of 10 percent of what the guidelines would recommend. Some common examples include the loss of a job or a sudden illness.
Talk to an Attorney About Your Child Support Obligation
If you have questions about how to calculate your child support obligations in Hawaii, Olson & Sons has the answers. Our firm could walk you through the process of calculating your recommended obligation using state guidelines. We could also help you advocate for a different outcome in your case if the recommendations are unreasonable. Do not deal with this difficult situation on your own. Let our team assist you with every aspect of your case. Contact us as soon as possible to schedule your initial consultation.