Louisiana Child Support Guidelines
TYPES OF CUSTODY
Sole custody is when one parent is awarded full legal and physical custody of the child or children.
Shared custody is when each parent has custody of the child or children for an equal amount of time. Sometimes there is no domiciliary parent names.
Split custody is when each parent has sole custody of at least one child.
Custody to Non-Parent
Custody is awarded to a non-parent when it has been deemed that giving custody to either parent would cause substantial harm to the child or children.
SPLIT CUSTODY CHILD SUPPORT
In split custody, when each parent has sole custody of at least one child, each parent owes a child support obligation to the other parent. The parent owing the greater amount of support pays the difference between the two amounts to the other parent.
INTERFERENCE WITH CUSTODY
Interference with custody is a criminal statute imposed when the non-domiciliary parent takes the child or children away from the domiciliary parent.
GENERALLY CALCULATE CHILD SUPPORT
Generally, child support in Louisiana is calculated starting with the combined gross (yes, “gross,” not “net”) income of the parents. The next step is to determine the non-domiciliary spouse’s percentage of the total obligation. The court can decide whether a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. Practically speaking, this means the court will assess minimum wage to the parent who shows no income or too little income. Child support can be ordered even if there is no present income. When deciding the child support amount, the court can consider other sources of income, for example if a parent is re-married, the court will consider the benefits from the new spouse. Unless it is not in the best interest of the child, Judges are required to use the child support guidelines.
COMBINED ADJUSTED GROSS INCOME
The primary factor to determine each parent’s ability to provide support is their “combined adjusted gross income.” The court’s goal is to reach the sum necessary to afford the child the same standard of living as the child enjoyed prior to the divorce, or the standard of living if the child were living with the non-custodial parent.
INCOMES AND SITUATIONS
It seems that the parents’ duties to support their children are equal. It seems that an order of approximately equal physical custody to each parent may cancel out the need for child support. However, in reality, this rarely happens, because of differences in the incomes and situations of the parents. Therefore, under Louisiana law, the share of the total cost of child support for which each parent is response is proportional to the parent’s percentage share of the total income of both parents.
The entire point is to make an order of child support to allow the child to maintain the best possible standard of living. Sometimes one parent can be ordered to pay substantially more than the other when he can afford to do so, and this is particularly typical in a sole or joint custody arrangement. When there is a shared custody arrangement and in some joint custody arrangements, the court may adjust a child support award downward to reflect time spent by the child living in the home of the payor. In fact, a court may make a special monetary award to one spouse in order to enable that spouse to maintain adequate housing for a child.
UNEMPLOYED OR UNDEREMPLOYED PARENT
If a parent is voluntarily unemployed or voluntarily underemployed, the court will determine that parent’s “potential income.” Generally, unemployment is not a ground for excusing a parent from paying child support unless the parent is shown also to be unemployable.
HOW DO I MODIFY CHILD SUPPORT?
Modification of child support can be brought with a rule to show cause. It can be modified if there is a significant change in income. (Of course, this may trigger questions regarding voluntary unemployment, but in the Lafayette area, it is often a smart move for the payor to modify to a lower number when there is a downturn in the oil industry.) The child support award can also be modified if custody is modified, especially if there is a change that allows the payor parent more time with the child or children. The reduction is usually granted as a recalculation of child support through a change from joint custody to shared or split custody. Finally, if parents can agree among themselves to modify child support, that is ok, as long as the amount “fosters the continued support and upbringing of the child.”
WHEN CHILD SUPPORT WILL NOT BE MODIFIED
Any voluntary act by a parent that renders it difficult or impossible to perform the primary obligation of support and maintenance of the children cannot be a ground for release of the parent from the obligation of child support.