How Does Child Support Work In Vermont?
After the parties agree to a parent-child contact schedule, or one is ordered by the court, the next thing to determine is the child support obligation. This undertaking is presided over by a special magistrate. Each party is required to fill out and file a financial affidavit, a Form 813 in Vermont family court parlance. This is a sworn document that lists all the parties’ incomes, debts, assets, bills and expenses.
The income of the parties and the percentage of total overnights each has with the child is put into a spreadsheet called the Child Support Guideline and out pops a figure. The Guideline is available to anyone for downloading and can be found at Vermont’s Office of Child Support’s website: http://dcf.vermont.gov/ocs/parents/guidelines_calculator. Other considerations involved in determining child support are work-related child care, health insurance costs paid on behalf of the child, extra-ordinary medical, educational or other costs, and additional dependents who you have a duty to support.
If the figure produced by the Vermont Child Support Guideline is agreeable, then that becomes the Order. However, either party can request that the Child Support Guideline amount be deviated from, either up or down. Some reasons for such a request (not routinely granted, by the way) is that the other party is hiding income or that they are voluntarily under-employed or unemployed. Or that one has extraordinary costs that warrant special consideration. The burden is on the requesting party to persuade the court of this, naturally. It isn’t sufficient to simply say the other parent is hiding money or that you have lots of bills. The court doesn’t really care about your bills. Its job is to watch out for the kids. If you have run up more bills than you can handle, well, tough, basically. However, if you are supporting your mother on an iron lung, well that might warrant special consideration.
Subpoenaed records and/or testimony may support a party’s claims. For example, in a hearing to determine if the other party’s income is being under-reported, one might show evidence of a checking account with unaccounted for funds moving around or credit cards being used excessively (and paid off); or showing the court that the amount of product being used by a self-employed individual indicates income greater than that being reported.
A final point worth mentioning is that the court acknowledges that a person needs a certain amount of money to survive, a so-called “self-support reserve,” below which they will not be required to make do. If you or the other party earn this amount and withstand a claim that you are voluntarily under-employed or unemployed, then it could be that there is no child support obligation owed.