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Kansas Child Support

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Child support in Kansas is governed by the Kansas Child Support Guidelines, which is a comprehensive framework of child support law created by the Kansas legislature and utilized by the courts in making child support determinations.  Use of the child support guidelines is mandatory and, therefore, a judge must review and consider all that which the guidelines provide in making a determination. The Guidelines are also used as helpful tools for attorneys and parties in support related district court actions to ensure that the support order serves the children’s best interests. Child support in Kansas is calculated using the standardized child support worksheet.  The child support worksheet calculates support by using the parties’ incomes and relevant adjustment entries for work related childcare payments, payment of a health and dental insurance premium or the exercise of 35% or more of the children’s available parenting time. Although use of the guidelines is mandatory, the Court always has discretion as to which guidelines apply in each situation. There are many nuances to the child support worksheet.  An experienced child support attorney will be able to help you navigate the ins and outs of child support, including the intricacies of the child support worksheet.

Who Pays and Who Receives Child Support

The parent who is directed to pay the direct expenses of the children is the parent who will receive child support. This can often be the parent with whom the children primarily reside but can be either parent. The parent who pays direct expenses is responsible for the payment of the fixed expenses paid to a third party on behalf of the children, including but not limited to school, church, recreational club, or recreational sports club participation. Direct expenses also include all necessary supplies and equipment purchased to support such activity including all school and school-related expenses including school lunches and bus fees, and extracurricular activities. Participation in competitive club sports or activities can also be considered a direct expense. Both parties shall pay indirect expenses of the children which include costs necessary to maintain day-to-day living when exercising parenting time with the children. The party who does not pay the direct expenses pays child support.

High Income Cases

In high income cases with or without spousal maintenance awards, there are significant amounts of support either gained or lost based on how the worksheet is drafted.  The extended income formula can be used when parties earn in excess of $15,500 combined per month. The extended income formula works to extend the child support schedules, which increases the amount of support payable. This is a discretionary function, and ultimately up to the court whether or not it should be used unless the parties can otherwise agree.  It is also important to ensure in high income cases that any spousal maintenance being paid is accurately credited on the child support worksheet and that proper income tax considerations are accounted for. Out of all the aspects or factors which go into a child support worksheet, the most important is income.  In fact, the income of the party who will pay child support is what drives the equation contained in the worksheet.  Having income accurately accounted for is of the utmost importance, and in many cases can be more art than science.  In many cases, determining a party’s income will be fairly simple.  Any party to a divorce case who works 40 hours a week and gets bi-weekly paychecks should merely have to produce a tax return, W-2 and pay stubs to confirm income. Other parents will have complex employer compensation structures including commissions, bonuses or profit sharing benefits which can fluctuate from month to month or year to year. Other parents may own a small business or may be part of an ownership group which owns a business. In this situation, simply reviewing a W2 will not give you the full breadth of that parent’s income for child support purposes.

Business Income

Parents who own small businesses, for example LLCs, which they tax as an S corporation, will issue themselves a salary based on W-2 earnings, but will leave income in the company by deferring compensation or housing retained earnings in the business.  Although that parent’s W-2 may show a sum certain for earnings, the money that parent decided not to receive can and often is considered income for child support purposes.

In-Kind Income

In other cases, employees or executives may be compensated with in-kind income such as an expense card, a company car or a free phone plan. Under the guidelines, this is considered = income for child support purposes. Further still, any tax deferred income an employee receives in the form of a 125-cafeteria plan or employer provided benefits, is considered income for child support purposes. Being able to follow the trail of money is something that should be of vital importance to any qualified and experienced child support attorney in Kansas.  The team at Fairbanks DeMarco has years of experience handling high income and high asset cases, spousal business ownership cases, and complex earnings or business structure cases.  Consult with the team at Fairbanks DeMarco to learn more about how the Kansas Child Support Guidelines may affect the income determination in your case.

Imputation of Income

Income may be imputed to a parent if the Court finds that parent is capable of earning a greater wage than the party presently earns. Typically, the Court would need to find that the underperforming parent is purposefully underemployed for the purpose of side-stepping a higher child support order. A party who purposefully takes employment which underpays that person in light of that person’s experience and earning potential the court can impute income to a level at which is representative of what that person should earn.  For example, many parties in divorce cases will purposefully quit their job or take a less paying or part-time job right before filing in hopes that his or her reduced income will benefit the child support or maintenance arguments. If a party either has a history of earning in a greater capacity or has the potential to realistically earn in excess of what is being earned at present, imputation of income is a very real probability.  Most of the time, income is imputed to a party who is not working or unemployed. An imputation of that party to at least minimum wage income or higher, depending on that person’s skills, education, training and experience, is something the court would traditionally do.  Every case is different.  Everyone’s earning potential is different.  Everyone’s job is different.  Consult with the team and Fairbanks DeMarco for information on whether imputation of income applies to your case.

Periods of Employment

For the seasonal worker who may go through peaks and valleys of employment and furloughs throughout the year, determining income can be like hitting a moving target.  In this situation, many times seasonal or yearly averages are used by combining empirical income data and averaging out over the course of a specific period of time.

True Up

Oftentimes, for parents with fluctuating income, a baseline child support amount will be set and a child support worksheet will be filed with additional agreements or orders that the parties recalculate child support at the end of each year to determine whether the amount which had been recurring during the past year was an amount appropriate under the guidelines and in the children’s best interest.  This is what is called a true up. For example, if the parties agree mother’s income is $90,000 per year verifiable by W-2 paystub and tax return, and the parties also agree that father’s historical income through his small business ranges anywhere from $120,000 to $150,000.  The parties can agree to set husband’s income at $135,000, and at the end of the year do a true up, and in the event he earns in excess of $135,000, the difference between the child support ordered and the new child support worksheet created would be due to the other parent.

Escalator Clauses

Parents who earn bonuses or commissions can also make agreements to pay a certain percentage of said bonus or commission when received as additional child support.  Think twice before agreeing to any kind of escalator as they are wrought with potential peril. Again, every situation is different and only a skilled and trained professional in the area of child support and maintenance can help you accurately navigate this minefield.

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