Child support is one of the most common issues addressed in Utah divorce and child custody cases. It’s really one of the more straightforward aspects of most cases.
Child support is really a function of (1) how many overnights a child spends with each parent every year, and (2) the parents’ gross monthly incomes. In this post, I’ll briefly address what income counts toward gross monthly income.
As you can guess, gross monthly income is income before you take out taxes. That part’s easy. What’s not so easy is figuring out what money is included and what money is excluded.
Utah Code, Section 78B-12-203(1) says gross monthly includes
prospective income from any source, including earned and nonearned income sources which may include salaries, wages, commissions, royalties, bonuses, rents, gifts from anyone, prizes, dividends, severance pay, pensions, interest, trust income, alimony from previous marriages, annuities, capital gains, Social Security benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, unemployment compensation, income replacement disability insurance benefits, and payments from ‘nonmeans-tested’ government programs.
Essentially, any income from any source will count toward child support. Now, most of the time people don’t have royalties coming in, and they don’t have five properties paying them rent, or trust income from a rich deceased uncle. (If you do have these income sources, however, keep in mind they will be included in a child support calculation.) No, most people have jobs and earn all their money from those jobs.
For normal job-workers, income that can be counted toward child support is limited
to the equivalent of one full-time 40-hour job. If and only if during the time prior to the original support order, the parent normally and consistently worked more than 40 hours at the parent’s job, the court may consider this extra time as a pattern in calculating the parent’s ability to provide child support.
Utah Code § 78B-12-203(2).
So, one 40-our per week job is really the max. If you worked consistent overtime before the case began, the average overtime pay will be included. Likewise, if you received regular bonuses are part of your pay, those will probably be included as well.
If you are self-employed or own your own business, gross monthly income is calculated by “subtracting necessary expenses required for self-employment or business operation from gross receipts. . . . Only those expenses necessary to allow the business to operate at a reasonable level may be deducted from gross receipts.” Utah Code § 78B-12-203(4)(a).
Keep in mind, necessary expenses are different than tax deductions. For example, you can take a tax break on depreciation on your work car, thereby lowering your taxable income. However, depreciation is not necessary to keep most businesses operating at a reasonable level, so it will likely not be a deduction when calculating child support.
Gross monthly income can also include imputed income — i.e., income someone should earn but doesn’t. Imputed income is most common when someone is capable of working a full-time job, but chooses not to. What it comes down to is you can’t screw your child out of money by choosing not to work. When you do that, you’re essentially stealing for your child, so the court will impute a wage and use that imputed wage to calculate child support. Utah Code § 78B-12-203(6)-(7).
Yes, I know, I said child support was straightforward. Well, it’s pretty straightforward for the law. Honestly, how most child support calculations work is you take each parents’ gross monthly wage from their one job, plug it in the Utah child support calculator, and it provides the child support obligation for each parent.