Whenever parents of children divorce, Nevada law requires that they provide financial support for their children until they reach the age of 18 (or 19 years if they are still in high school). NRS 125B.020(1) is intended to be gender neutral and requires both parents to provide their children with their necessary financial means, health care, education and support. Courts regularly require parents to obtain full-time employment in order to meet their financial obligation if they are not employed.
Child support in Nevada is calculated according to the guidelines set forth in NRS 125B.070—080. In order to calculate child support, the following information is necessary:
· The Gross Monthly Income of the parties;
· The number of children involved; and
· The Physical Custodial Arrangement.
At its core, the intent of the Child Support Guidelines is to establish a standard for support based upon the paying parent’s gross monthly income. Gross monthly income is defined as the total amount of income a person receives in any given month. The court will look at both the latest pay stubs of a party to see what they are currently earning, and also the prior years’ tax returns to look at consistency of the numbers. The courts will include things like bonuses, per diem allowances, and other additions to a person’s base wage or salary if those things are consistently received. Most often, the court will take the year-to-date figure from the paycheck and divide it by the number of months or weeks that have accrued during that year, then convert that to a monthly figure. That becomes that person’s gross monthly income for purposes of calculating child support.
The Number of Children Involved
Once the gross monthly income is determined, the court looks at how many children are involved in the case. Only children from the relationship are considered in calculating support at this stage. For information about child support awards in Nevada if there are children from another relationship, read our blog post here. The base child support obligation is set as a percentage of the obligor’s gross monthly income (“GMI”), which changes based upon the number of children. These percentages are:
- One Child . . . . . . . . . . . . 18% of GMI
- Two Children . . . . . . . . . 25% of GMI
- Three Children. . . . . . . . 29% of GMI
- Four Children . . . . . . . . 31% of GMI
- An additional 2% is added for each child thereafter.
The resulting calculation is, however, capped. NRS 125B.070 provides a “Presumptive
Maximum Amount” (“PMA”) or, the maximum amount a person should be required to pay, based upon a person’s overall income. The income is broken down into tiers, and each tier has a maximum amount to be paid. This PMA is adjusted each year base upon the Consumer Price Index as published by the United States Department of Labor. For 2016, the maximum amounts an obligor may be required to pay is as follows:
|For Monthly Income between:||The Maximum Amount is:|
|$0 up to $4,235||$681 per child|
|$4,235 up to $6,351||$749 per child|
|$6,351 up to $8,467||$820 per child|
|$8,467 up to $10,585||$886 per child|
|$10,585 up to $12,701||$955 per child|
|$12,701 up to $14,816||$1,022 per child|
|$14,816 and above||$1,092 per child|
Once the person’s GMI is determined and the number of children are known, the court then applies the percentage to the incomes of the parties based upon the custodial arrangement.
Physical Custodial Arrangement
There are two custodial arrangements in Nevada law: joint physical custody and primary physical custody.
In situations where a party has primary physical custody (more than 60% of the time), the non-custodial parent is the only party who pays. The reasoning is that the primary custodial parent is devoting a majority of their time and resources already to support the children. The percentage obligation is merely applied to the paying party’s GMI, subject to the statutory cap.
For example, if a non-custodial parent earns $6,000 per month, and she has two children, the percentage based upon two children is 25%, or $1,500 per month in total support. Then the court will look at the PMA, which for $6,000 per month is $748 per child. Mom’s child support is then reduced to $1,496, to adhere to the limits imposed by the PMA.
In situations where the parents have joint physical custody, the calculation is similar, but it includes a comparison of both parents’ incomes. The percentage is applied to both parents’ GMI, the difference is determined, then the PMA is applied at the end.
For example, say Dad earned $10,000 per month, and Mom earned only $4,000 per month, and they had two children. Dad’s obligation under the 25% obligation for two children would be $2,500 per month in total support. Mom’s obligation would be $1,000 per month in total support. Mom’s obligation is deducted from Dad’s obligation, leaving Dad with a net obligation of $1,500. Now, the PMA is applied, but at Dad’s income tier, the PMA is $885 per child. Since $885×2 = $1,770, Dad’s obligation is not reduced. It remains at $1,500 for the two children.
Adjustments to Support Awards
As much as parties like child support to be predictable, it also needs to accommodate certain special conditions that justify a deviation. The court has almost no ability to deviate from the above calculation, except in limited instances, outlined in NRS 125B.080(9). The factors allowing deviation are:
(a) The cost of health insurance;
(b) The cost of child care;
(c) Any special educational needs of the child;
(d) The age of the child;
(e) The legal responsibility of the parents for the support of others;
(f) The value of services contributed by either parent;
(g) Any public assistance paid to support the child;
(h) Any expenses reasonably related to the mother’s pregnancy and confinement;
(i) The cost of transportation of the child to and from visitation if the custodial parent moved with the child from the jurisdiction of the court which ordered the support and the noncustodial parent remained;
(j) The amount of time the child spends with each parent;
(k) Any other necessary expenses for the benefit of the child; and
(l) The relative income of both parents.
So, for example, if a monthly child support award of $1,500 is owed, but that obligor also pays for the children’s health insurance, that person’s obligation can be reduced by half of the children’s insurance premium. Conversely, if the receiving spouse is providing that insurance, then the obligor’s portion of the insurance premium is added to the $1,500 monthly obligation. The same is true for any of the other special factors listed.
Another special condition to be considered is when a parent is unemployed or underemployed. If a parent is not employed, absent disability or some other compelling reason why they can’t work, the court will set child support at a minimum of $100 per month, and will typically order that the parent search for full-time employment. If the court deems a parent to be voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, then the court can set the amount at $100 per month, or it can “impute” income (meaning it assumes for the purposes of child support) of an amount consistent with what that person should be able to earn, given their skills and experience. Thus, a parent who plays games in order to reduce the monthly obligation can be forced to pay the support that they should pay were they being honest about their employment.
MODIFYING A CHILD SUPPORT AWARD
Once a support award is established, that order remains in place until the court changes it or the children emancipate (turn 18 and graduate from high school). Though the parents can voluntarily agree to pay different amounts, the order remains and is enforceable, even if the parties agree otherwise. It is ALWAYS best to ask the court for a modification when things change.
NRS 125B.145 provides that every child support award can be reviewed every three years, or at any time upon a change in gross monthly income of more than 20%. Either party can request that the support amount be reviewed by the court.
If you still have questions regarding calculating child support, call one of the experienced attorneys at Gallagher Attorney Gr0yup at (702) 448-1099. We can help you.
¹ Self employed parents create special problems to courts and counsel in that there are issues related to calculating their gross monthly income. If a person controls his income, the court will likely order an outside expert—usually a “forensic accountant” to come in and estimate the person’s income. This can be an expensive proposition, but it’s often the only way to get an objective view of that person’s income.
² The presence of other children can affect the final support amount, which will be discussed later in the “adjustments to support” section.