Child Support

How is Child Support determined in the state of Rhode Island?

Child Support is determined based on the income of the respective parties, which could be the mom, dad or guardians of the children.

Why do I need an attorney when fighting for child support?

It is difficult to understand and interpret Administrative Order 2012-3 (Amending Administrative Orders 2007-03 and 87-2) which is the Rhode Island Family Court Child Support Formula and Guidelines. In 2012 the Rhode Island Family Court convened the Child Support Guidelines Committee to review the 2007 Child Support Guidelines. The committee submitted a proposed 2012 Monthly Basic Child Support Obligations Schedule and a 2012 Gross to Net Conversion Table. The committee also suggested an approach to resolving issues related to change in the work related child care expenses. An experienced attorney can best assist a client when it comes to calculating child support due from one spouse to the other.

Administrative Order 2012-3 uses the Income Shares Model by continuing to calculate child support as a shared obligation wherein each parent’s income is considered as if the child continues to reside in an intact household. Therefore, it is important that each parent’s income is accurately established. An attorney with family court knowledge will know how to collect and subpoena documents for and from the payor or payee spouse that will best determine their respective income. An experience family court attorney will also know how report work related child care costs, an amount that can be calculated in to the child support order. Given the nuances regarding the child support formula and guidelines an experienced attorney can better explain to the client and help determine the best method to calculate the correct child support amount.

How is the money collected from one parent and issued to the other?

There are two ways that’s done. One is through a ‘garnishment’ which is an order issued by the court. There are a number of wage garnishment forms that pertain particularly to a garnishment order that need to be filled out and sent to the payor’s employer. The payor’s employer must recognize the order or be held in contempt without a valid reason why it cannot recognize the order.

The employers collects the stated amount of child support from the payor’s paycheck and sends it directly to the Rhode Island Family Court Bookkeeping Department. The payee parent sets up a child support account with bookkeeping and bookkeeping will issue the child support payment to the payee once it receives the garnished amount from the payors employer. Nowadays I believe the bookkeeping department can directly deposit the child support amount in the payees designated personal bank account or add the money to the payees debit card.

The second way is a direct pay from spouse-to-spouse with no garnishment.

What is arrearage?

An arrearage occurs when the payor gets behind in the child support payments and fails to pay the payee the full amount of child support owed to date. The amount the payor did not pay the payee despite being court ordered to do so is called the arrearage. Child support is always subject to modification based on a substantial change in circumstances. If a payor loses their job or experiences a change in income that would result in at least a 10% change in the child support amount then the payor must file a Motion seeking an adjustment in the previously court ordered child support amount. If the payor gets behind in child support payments and fails to file a Motion to Modify seeking an adjustment then they can be held in contempt for failing to pay child support under the existing court order. Once the court establishes the arrearage amount the Judge will either order that person to pay it right then and there, or over a reasonable period of time, or possibly sentence them to jail for their failure to pay.

Would this be something that would happen let’s say someone lost their job things like that?

Child support is always modifiable in Rhode Island. The statute says you can modify child support based on a ‘substantial change in circumstances’, and that ‘substantial change in circumstances’ can be the loss of a job, a decrease or increase in income of either party.

Does the court make such changes easy to implement?

Well it is a very simple process however, until you make a motion before the court, the previous order will remain in effect. Should a Judge order a modification she/he can order it retroactive to the day the motion was filed. If someone loses their job and they don’t move to modify their child support order for a month, or two weeks, or two months, the court will only order the modification back to the day the motion was filed.

What if a child wants to be emancipated? Would the support continue to go to the child?

That’s a good question. No, if a child wants to be emancipated and the judge sees fit to make that happen then he’s emancipated. They are on their own – that’s it.

What if I know my ex is lying about how much money he makes?

Through the power of a subpoena, a knowledgeable attorney can access employee records directly from the employer, bank accounts directly from the bank or other income related documents to verify income or assets. There are ways to get income information outside of just relying on your ex’s word.

Child support has been determined / ordered but my ex is not paying? What should I do?

Because hiring an attorney and going to court can be expensive I always suggest to send a letter first informing the non-paying ex that they are in arrears and to contact me so that arrangements can be made to bring them up to date, and work out an order. But if they are unresponsive then you could file a motion asking to adjudge them in contempt and payment of your attorney’s fees. Hopefully we get a win-win, but awarding attorney’s fees is not always easy, even in contempt cases.

What are my rights? And do I have any rights other than that – can I demand it from them any other way than just by filing the contempt.

The court has to first make a finding of fact that child support is in arrears and then issue a judgment ordering its payment to you. With that judgment you can seek to attach real estate, bank accounts, or any asset in the name of the payor either alone or jointly with another person. But you do need a court order before you can do any of those things. So it does require going to court.

Martineau Davis & Associates is committed to aggressive advocacy for our clients while maintaining the highest level of professionalism, integrity, and ethical standards. Contact us at 401-234-0751.

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