In the case of joint physical custody, it may make sense to vary from the Child Support guidelines.
There are two earlier articles on this site: How Divorce Mediation Can Create a Sensible, Workable Child Support Agreement and A Must Read for Parents. Both deal with child support. Below I discuss a recent mediation that I believe provides another insight into child support. In a Parenting Agreement where it is clear and definable as to who is the custodial parent (with the child/children over fifty percent of the time) and where the child support calculations show a significant difference in Adjusted Gross Incomes, the parties usually recognize who is going to receive the child support and who is going to provide it. However, when parents agree to Joint Physical Custody the picture is not always so clear.
Larry and Joan (not their real names) came to me recently and stated that they were already living in separate dwellings and wanted Joint Physical Custody of their teenage daughter. They had worked out parenting so that Larry was with their daughter every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and every other Sunday. Joan was with their daughter every Wednesday Friday, Saturday, and every other Sunday. Joan carried her daughter on her health insurance, but Larry provided one half of the cost for this. In calculating each parent’s monthly responsibility for child support there was a difference of $71.00. During mediation, Larry offered to provide Joan with this monthly difference. All of the other issues appeared to be resolved and I asked the clients to review a draft of what I believed was a tentative agreement.
I soon heard from Joan asking, What am I legally entitled to for child support? Generally, when the parents have decided on Joint Physical Custody and have basically the same annual income, the parties agree to deviate from the calculations and neither seeks child support. I shared this with Joan and shared with her that the only person who could answer her question was a judge, and the answer would probably vary from one judge to another. If she retained a lawyer, it would be costly, and still ultimately rest with the court. The most economical and efficient course would be to continue with mediation, discuss this issue with Larry, and use the process to find a solution that would work for them and their child.
Mediation empowers you and your spouse to reach decisions that are best for the two of you. Use it!