Child Support

Montana Law requires that all parenting plans address child support, and that child support be calculated pursuant to the Montana Child Support Guidelines.  The Guidelines are “based on the principle that it is the first priority of parents to meet the needs of the child according to the financial ability of the parents.  In a dissolution of marriage or when the parents have never been married, a child’s standard of living should not, to the degree possible, be adversely affected because a child’s parents are not living in the same household.”  (ARM 37.62.101(2)).

The Guidelines are a formula, which can be found in the Administrative Rules of Montana.  The formula requires both parties’ income, state and federal taxes, and certain expenses such as health insurance premiums, significant and ongoing annual medical expenses, required employment expenses, and child care costs.  The formula also requires the number of days the child or children spend with each parent in a 1 year period.  Knowing what information to use in the formula is perhaps the most difficult part of the calculation; from determining the proper amount of income for a self-employed person to deciphering whether retirement contributions are “mandatory.”  In some cases, it becomes necessary to use legal tools such as a subpoena to determine a parent’s actual income.  Our office has a computerized system to calculate support, and we can assist our clients in ensuring they have the information they need in order to properly run the calculation formula.

In most cases, properly applying the formula will yield an appropriate amount of child support.  However, the courts are permitted to vary from the formula if they find it appropriate to do so, either because the parties have agreed to the variation, or because there are unique circumstances in the case.  Our office can help you to determine whether your case might be appropriate for a variance.

One frequently asked question regarding child support is whether a parent is required to pay support if they are not parenting their children.  For example, if a child resides with her dad, and dad will not allow mom to see the child, does mom need to pay child support?  The answer is yes, mom needs to continue paying support.  Mom may need to seek other remedies to ensure she gets to visit her child, but those remedies do not include stopping her child support payments.

Another frequently asked question is whether child support is required to be paid during time that the non-residential parent has the child.  For example, if a child resides with mom during the school year and dad during the summer, and dad pays child support to mom, does he need to pay in the summer months while the child is residing with him?  The answer is yes, he does need to pay throughout the year.  Child support is an annual figure, which we divide by 12 to get a monthly payment amount.