Technically, child support is defined by Montana statutes. Really though, the statutes just assign the job of determining a formula for child support to the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS). The department is an administrative agency, tasked with maintaining a formula for determining child support and enforcing child support across the state. This does not mean that the Courts have nothing to do with determining child support, but that relationship is complicated and a topic for another day.
DPHHS is made of a number of different departments including the Child Support Enforcement Division (or CSED). CSED’s mission is to diligently pursue and ultimately achieve financial and medical support of child by establishing, enforcing, and increasing public awareness of parental obligations. Their services include: locating absent parents; establishing paternity; establishing financial and medial support orders; enforcing current and past-due child support; offering medical and spousal support; and modifying child support orders.
In order to determine what a parent may owe (or be entitled to) in child support, the department has created the Child Support Guidelines. This is a large formula that results in an amount owed by one parent to another. This amount is presumptively correct, and generally reflects what the actual payment in child support will be. The guidelines take into account a huge number of factors including all the income that both parents receive during a year from ALL sources. It also factors in deductions, time spent with the children, costs of the children, costs of travel to exercise visitation, and a huge number of different factors. You can see the worksheet by clicking on this link.
Like any formula, the result is only as accurate as the numbers you start with. And while you may have access to your own financial information, it may be difficult to find information about your co-parent’s financial status. Montana law mandates that all parents involved in a child support action complete a Child Support Affidavit under penalty of perjury. Theoretically, this document should supply the other parent with enough information to correctly complete the guideline calculation. If you believe that your co-parent is hiding information, assets, or income from you, the best course of action is to speak with a Montana child support lawyer. If you are representing yourself, it is also important that you draw these concerns to the Court’s attention.
Child support calculations are important, and unavoidable. A parenting plan action in Montana is required to also include provisions for child support and medical care. And, raising a child is expensive. While it may not seem like an important issue now – down the road it will.