There are guidelines set forth in KRS 403.212 used to determine the child support awards in Kentucky Family Courts. In 1990, Kentucky revised its child support guidelines for original and modified orders, with an eye toward consistency and predictably in child support awards. The Guidelines serve as a rebuttable presumption of the child support award in any given case, based primarily on the combined gross incomes of the parents. The court is required to enter a child support order when the divorcing couple has minor children together. However, the child support guidelines are outdated and many attorneys are of the opinion that the support guidelines need to be overhauled. The Child Support Guidelines stop considering income beyond a combined gross monthly income of $15,000.00. There are many families in Kentucky who are earning far more than $15,000.00 per month. Conversely, there are just as many, if not more, families who are struggling to make ends meet and cannot afford guideline support. Until recently, it was very unlikely for the courts in Kentucky to deviate from the guideline child support number, regardless of the child's needs or the parents' income.
However, the Supreme Court of Kentucky addressed both of these issues in the last several months. The Court reached the conclusion that the trial courts have much discretion in determining child support and that the guidelines are just that, guidelines and should not be used as black letter law. In the high income earner case, the courts focused on the best interests of the child, but in the low income earner case, the court focused on the needs of the children.
In McCarty v. Faried, Father is an NBA basketball player earning a salary of $1,434,665 and additional endorsements in the amount of $197,240. Mother, who had to quit school after getting pregnant in college, has primary physical custody of their daughter and earns $1,050 per month. She lives with her parents and other family members. After hearing evidence about both the expenses and needs of Father, Mother, and the needs and best interests of the child, the Court determined that the child had reasonable needs of $4,250.00 per month, so the trial court ordered Father to pay $4,250.00 per month in child support. The order was made retroactive to the month following the month in which Mother filed her original motion for child support. The case was appealed, ultimately to the Kentucky Supreme Court. The Supreme Court first states that this case is clearly not bound by the child support guidelines, as the combined income of Father and Mother surpasses the limits of the guidelines. Thus, child support is within the trial court's discretion when considering the reasonable needs of the child. Further, the Supreme Court upheld the retroactivity of the trial court's child support award holding that the child's reasonable needs did not begin with the entry of the court's support order and the effective date is in the discretion of the trial court.
In Carver v. Carver, Mother and Father, each collecting disability, had a child with Down Syndrome and significant health issues. The parties agreed to pay child support per the Kentucky guidelines, but Father never made his payments to Mother. The court considered Father's ability to pay and reduced Father's child support obligation to the statutory minimum of $60 per month. No evidence was heard regarding the expenses of Mother nor the needs of the child. The case was appealed. The Kentucky Supreme Court unequivocally states that the KRS 403.212 child support guidelines are intended to be presumptive guides, not black letter law. The Supreme Court recognized the need to deviate in this case, but held that while deviation was appropriate, the trial court acted incorrectly in failing to consider Mother's income and expenses, or the reasonable needs of the child.
The Supreme Court's decisions show that Kentucky courts have a lot of discretion when it comes to child support, despite the courts' past patterns. Therefore, it is important to make sure that you are presenting all of the evidence necessary for the court to be able to make an award that meets both your children's needs and best interests.
McCarty v. Faried: http://opinions.kycourts.net/sc/2015-SC-000271-DGE.pdf
Carver v. Carver: http://opinions.kycourts.net/sc/2015-SC-000212-DGE.pdf
Lexington Herald Leader, Legislation would update Kentucky's 'outdated' child support guidelines: http://www.kentucky.com/news/politics-government/article44404293.html
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