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Calculating Child Support in Rhode Island

When a couple divorces, there are many issues that need to be resolved related to their children’s care. These issues include child custody, parenting time, and child support. Child support is the money that one parent pays to the other parent to help cover the costs of caring for their child. Usually, the parent who the child lives with the majority of the time is the parent who receives the child support.

Like child custody, child support is often one of the contentious subjects between divorcing parents. There may be some resentment on the part of the paying parent who may feel that the money he or she is paying will not just go towards the child’s care, but that somehow the other parent will be benefiting from those funds, as well. Whether you are the paying parent or the receiving parent, it is important to understand what child support is for and how Rhode Island family courts calculate the amount ordered.

Costs of Raising a Child

According to the USDA’s Expenditures on Children by Families annual report, it will cost parents $233,610 to raise a child born in 2015, from birth to the age of 17. Some of the expenses included in these costs include housing (29 percent), food (18 percent), childcare and education (16 percent), transportation (15 percent), health care (9 percent), miscellaneous (7 percent), and clothing (6 percent) for a total yearly average of $13,000 per child.

The parent who has custody of the child will likely have higher household expenses than they would if the child did not live with them. For example, the parent will need a bigger home or apartment so the child can have their own bedroom, and this usually means higher housing costs. Since the living space is bigger and there are more people in the home, the utility costs will also be higher.

It would be unfair for that parent to bear the sole financial burden of meeting all the child’s needs. This is why the noncustodial parent is ordered to pay child support. In addition to the housing costs mentioned above, some of the expenses that child support is supposed to cover include:

  • Basic Needs: This includes food, clothing, and medical care that is not covered by health insurance (i.e. OTC medication, vitamins, etc.)
  • Entertainment: Courts generally agree that children benefit from basic entertainment, such as toys, books, and movies.
  • Education Needs: Child support can also pay for school supplies, tutoring, and extracurricular activities. Costs for daycare expenses, private schools, and higher education are not usually included in the child support amount and instead are addressed in the divorce negotiations and final settlement.

How Does Rhode Island Calculate Child Support?

Every state has their own laws that determine how much child support the paying parent should be responsible for each month. The Rhode Island child support guidelines use an income shares model to calculate what that monthly payment should be. The income shares model considers the gross monthly income of both parents for child support payments.

Each party is allowed deductions for items like health insurance premiums, child support payments for other children, and childcare costs. Other expenses, such as income tax adjustments, retirement benefits, and significant medical expenses may also be deemed to be deductions if the court feels they are appropriate.

The final amount after deductions have been taken is referred to as the adjusted gross income (AGI) of each parent. These two amounts are added together and is referred to as the parents’ combined monthly income. The court will take that combined income, plus the number of children the parents have together, and refer to the Rhode Island Child Support Guideline Schedule, which provides recommended amounts of child support.

The court will then assign each parent a percentage of that child support amount to determine what percentage each parent should be responsible for.

For example, let’s say the mother’s AGI is $2,000 and the father’s AGI is $6,000. This means their combined income is $8,000. They have one child. Under the guideline schedule, the recommended amount of child support is $1185. The mother would be responsible for 25 percent of that amount ($296.25), while the father would be responsible for 75 percent ($888.75).

If the mother is the primary custodial parent, the father will pay her $888.75. If the father is the primary custodial parent, the mother will pay him $296.25.

Call Our Office for Assistance

If you are involved in a child custody situation or have questions about child support modifications, contact our office today to find out what legal options you may have. To learn more, call Kirshenbaum Law Associates at 401-467-5300 for a confidential consultation.