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Kentucky Child Support Guidelines Not Applicable?

In this blog, I devote regular space to common issues arising out of family court disputes in Kentucky, including family courts based in Louisville and LaGrange. How a family law lawyer calculates child support in Kentucky when children reside with both parents on a 50-50 basis is such a frequently litigated issue.

NO. 2015-CA-001805-ME

Kentucky Court of Appeals

Williams v. Williams, unpublished opinion

Decided September 8, 2017

In this unpublished opinion, the Kentucky Court of Appeals upheld a trial court’s order deviating from the Kentucky Child Support Guidelines and setting support by using the “Colorado Rule.” The father in this case made in excess of $14,000 per month. The mother had income of just more than $4,000 per month. The parties shared time with their one child on a 50-50 basis. Child support in this Kentucky case was set at $644 per month payable by the father – the higher wage earner. The mother requested support of $1,223 per month, per the Kentucky Child Support Guidelines.

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An excerpt from the case follows:

“ In setting or modifying child support, a family court has the discretion to deviate from the child support guidelines. However, KRS 403.211(2) and (3) clearly require the court to make “a written finding or specific finding” on the record justifying any such deviation. With respect to a shared custody arrangement’s effect on child support, a panel of this Court in Plattner v. Plattner, 228 S.W.3d 577 (Ky. App. 2007), observed,

While Kentucky's child support guidelines do not contemplate such a shared custody arrangement, they do reflect the equal duty of both parents to contribute to the support of their children in proportion to their respective net incomes. They also provide a measure of flexibility that is particularly relevant in this case. Under the provisions of KRS 403.211(2) and (3), a trial court may deviate from the child support guidelines when it finds that their application would be unjust or inappropriate. The period of time during which the children reside with each parent may be considered in determining child support, and a relatively equal division of physical custody may constitute valid grounds for deviating from the guidelines. Brown v. Brown, Ky. App. 952 S.W.2d 707 (Ky. App. 1997); Downey v. Rogers, 847 S.W.2d 63 (Ky. App. 1993). Id. at 579.

Consideration of a shared parenting arrangement in calculating child support is what is referred to as the Colorado Rule or Colorado Model.

Herein, the family court determined that the parties’ combined monthly gross income was in excess of the minimum support guidelines; also the shared custody arrangement warranted a deviation from the guidelines. Appellant argues that the family court ignored her evidence concerning N.W.’s needs and instead relied solely on a mathematical extrapolation to reach the child support amount. To the contrary, the family court simply concluded that Appellant was seeking to maintain a lifestyle at her home similar to that which exists at Appellee’s home. However, as the family court noted, N.W. was only an infant at the time the parties divorced in 2005, and he has never resided in a household with a combined parental income in excess of the support guidelines. The family court concluded then, that although a disparity exists between the parties’ incomes, it would be unfair to require Appellee to pay Appellant a sum of money to equalize the standard of living at the two homes.

We find it significant that Appellant’s requested child support amount of $1,223.44 is higher than the amount of support Appellee had paid when both children were minors. Further, Appellant’s tendered expense summary assigns approximately $1,386.50 of her monthly expenses to the care of N.W. Consequently, she seeks to have Appellee cover all but $163 of her expenses. While Appellant does not readily admit such, it appears to this Court that she essentially believes the family court should have adopted a “share the wealth” approach, which was specifically rejected by this Court in Downing, 45 S.W.3d at 455.

As previously noted, the family court must specifically set out its reasons for deviating from the child support guidelines, and in this case, it did specifically justify that deviation based on the shared-parenting schedule. See McGregor v. McGregor, 334 S.W.3d 113 (Ky. App. 2011). Appellant and Appellee share equal physical custody of N.W. and bear identical day-to-day expenses as they relate to food, clothing, shelter, and entertainment. Appellant does not dispute that Appellee contributes at least fifty-percent and often more to N.W.’s expenses. A relatively equal division of physical custody may constitute valid grounds for deviating from the guidelines. Plattner, 228 S.W.3d at 577. See also Downey v. Rogers, 847 S.W.2d 63, 65 (Ky. App. 1993).

Given the shared-custody arrangement, the family court was within its discretion to deviate from the guidelines and utilize the Colorado Rule to compute Appellant’s monthly child support obligation.”

Call Jason Dattilo, an experienced family law attorney practicing in family courts of Jefferson, Oldham, and the surrounding counties.

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