Child Support in Utah

Parents have a duty to support their minor children by providing at least a monthly "base child support," medical and dental expenses, work-related childcare (daycare) expenses, and extracurricular activity expenses. Their duty will usually continue until the child turns 18 years old. Several factors play into the court's decision on the amount of child support a parent is required to pay and how the child's medical, childcare, and extracurricular activities costs will be divided (though the latter three will usually be split 50/50).  

You can calculate the amount you will be receiving in child support or paying in child support by using the Utah Office of Recovery Services' Online Child Support Calculator.

To learn more about child support, check out the following Common Questions & Answers. It is wise to hire an attorney to help you with your child support needs. We hope this webpage also serves as a helpful resource.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What does "custodial" and "noncustodial" mean?
2. What is "base" child support? Why is it called that?
3. How much base child support will I be ordered to pay?
4. Will my base child support always be calculated from the tables/ORS calculator, or is it possible my base child support amount will be something else, either now or in the future?
5. How do I calculate my monthly gross income?
6. What is "adjusted" gross income?
7. In my current case, the court will likely order me to pay alimony in addition to child support. When the court calculates my alimony and child support amounts, will it take into account the fact that I have to pay both?
8. If I am the custodial parent, do I need to pay child support?
9. When is child support due?
10. How can I enforce the child support order?
11. Who will pay for my child's medical expenses?
12. How can I enforce the other parent to pay his or her share of the medical expenses?
13. Who will pay for my child's child care expenses?
14. Must the child care expenses be related to the custodial parent's work or training/education, or could they also be related to the noncustodial parent's work or training/education?
15. How does extended parent-time affect my child support obligation? Specifically, if my child spends extended parent-time with me, the noncustodial parent, will I owe less in child support?
16. How do I receive an adjustment in my child support due if I have participated in extended parent-time as the noncustodial parent, and ORS withholds my income?
17. How do I receive an adjustment in my child support due if I have participated in extended parent-time as the noncustodial parent, but ORS does not withhold my income every month?
18. Can I claim my child as a tax exemption?
19. What if both parents try to claim the child as a tax exemption in the same year?
20. Do I need to keep paying child support after my child turns 18?
21. How will child support be calculated under joint physical custody?
22. How will child support be calculated under split custody?
23. What should I do if I am signed up with ORS, but then the noncustodial parent moves out of Utah?
24. What should I do if I am signed up with ORS, but then I, the custodial parent, move out of Utah?
25. What should I do if I already have a child support order from another state, but either the other parent or I move to Utah?

1. What does "custodial" and "noncustodial" mean?

In Utah, the "custodial" parent is the parent awarded more overnights per year with the child, and the parent with less overnights is called the "noncustodial" parent. If you have been awarded sole physical custody of a minor child, you are the "custodial" parent. The "noncustodial" parent will still be entitled to parent-time and some overnights, but not the majority of overnights per year. To learn more about "sole physical custody," visit our Child Custody page.

2. What is "base" child support? Why is it called that?

The base child support represents the money the noncustodial parent must pay each month to the custodial parent to provide for the child's necessities. It is typically calculated by a set formula (see the following Q&As). It is called a "base" child support because the noncustodial parent will usually be required to provide not only the base, but also a share of the child's medical expenses, reasonable work-related or education-related child care, and extra-curricular activities.

3. How much base child support will I be ordered to pay?

The court uses guidelines found in the Utah Child Support Act to determine the base child support award. For a quick estimate of what your base child support award will likely be, use this ORS Online Calculator. (See following Q&As to estimate your adjusted gross income, and to learn more about what your results mean.)

Or, you can take a quick glimpse at the child support obligation table, or the low income table if you make $1050 a month or less. In looking at these tables, you will get the same results as the ORS calculator. As an example, if your portion of the combined income is 70%, your child support obligation will be 70% of the child support amount listed on the table which corresponds with both your combined income and your number of shared children. Note that this is not the calculation to apply to joint or split custody.

If you and the other parent's monthly combined adjusted gross income exceeds $100,000, the court will award either the amount listed on the table which corresponds with a $100,000 combined income, or an even higher amount, at the court's discretion. There is not a specific formula for a combined income over $100,000, but rather the court will determine an "appropriate and just" child support amount on a case-by-case basis.

4. Will my base child support always be calculated from the tables/ORS calculator, or is it possible my base child support amount will be something else, either now or in the future?

The court will usually award the calculated base child support amount, using the tables. However, variations from the calculated base amount can arise in a number of ways:

  • The court finds sufficient reasons to stray from the tables, including: standard of living of each parent, situation of each parent, relative wealth and income, ability to earn money, needs, needs of the child, ages, and responsibilities for the support of others.
  • If you provide the health insurance coverage for the child, you may receive credit against your base child support award for the other parent's share of the premium that he or she owes to you. Alternatively, your base child support could be unaffected if the other parent simply pays you their share. (See following Q&As for more details on medical expenses and insurance.)
  • The court order contains a provision for the automatic adjustment of future support, though automatic adjustments can never decrease a support amount lower than the base award, and it will never decrease the support amount if the paying parent's income is voluntarily reduced.
  • The child support award is modified in the future because one of the parents files a petition to modify and the court determines that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred.

5. How do I calculate my monthly gross income?

For details on how the court will determine gross income for purposes of awarding child support, see Utah Code Annotated 78B-12-203.

  • If you are currently unemployed, the court will still calculate child support as if you work 40 hours a week at the federal minimum wage. However, there are a few exceptions. See sections (7)(c) and (7)(d) to learn about those exceptions.
  • If you are self-employed or operate a business, see section (4) of the statute.
  • Keep in mind that the court actually looks at your "adjusted" gross income (see the next question, or U.C.A. 78B-12-204).

6. What is "adjusted" gross income?

If you already pay alimony and/or child support because of a previous case, these alimony and child support payments will be deducted from your gross income when the court calculates how much child support to award in your current case. The result is your adjusted gross income. In other words, gross income minus alimony previously ordered and paid, minus child support previously ordered = adjusted gross income. (See U.C.A. 78B-12-204).

7. In my current case, the court will likely order me to pay alimony in addition to child support. When the court calculates my alimony and child support amounts, will it take into account the fact that I have to pay both?

Yes and No. When the court calculates your child support award, the court will not adjust your gross income based on the pending alimony you will be required to pay to your soon-to-be ex-spouse. (It will only adjust your gross income for alimony previously ordered and paid.) However, when the court is in the process of calculating your alimony, it will take into consideration the fact that your child support amount was not decreased by the pending alimony order. See U.C.A. 78B-12-204).

8. If I am the custodial parent, do I need to pay child support?

No. If the court grants you sole physical custody, your share of base child support will be calculated, but you do not need to pay it to anyone. The court simply expects you to use that money to provide for your child's necessities.

9. When is child support due?

Monthly payments of child support are due the 1st day of each month.

However, if ORS or other child support services are involved, or if your case involves income withholding, support is typically payable 1/2 by the 5th day of each month, and 1/2 by the 20th day of that month; and child support is not considered past due until the 1st day of the following month.

10. How can I enforce the child support order?

The easiest way is through ORS, i.e. the Office of Recovery Services. If you sign up for it, ORS will be responsible for collecting child and medical support on your behalf. It has authority to garnish the noncustodial parent's wages, so that the child support payments are automatically withdrawn every month.

Or, even without going through ORS, sometimes a court order will require the noncustodial parent to make arrangements with his or her employer to withhold child support from his or her wages.

If a child support payment is past due, you can file a motion with the court called an "Order to Show Cause." The court may order the other parent to pay what is due, along with extra fines; hold him or her in contempt of court, and even send him/her to jail for not complying. If you do not sign up for ORS right away, but sign up later after some payments have already been missed, you must obtain a court order before ORS can help you recover that which is past due.

There is a statute of limitations for past-due child support: If more than 4 years have passed since the youngest child reached the age of majority, the court cannot enforce payment of past-due child support, unless in the past it entered a sum certain judgment for past-due child support and 8 years have not yet passed since that order.

11. Who will pay for my child's medical expenses?

Insurance: The court will order that at least one parent provide health, dental, and/or hospital insurance coverage for the child, if it is available at a reasonable cost. To decide which parent's insurance policy to use, the court looks at the availability of a group insurance policy, coverage of the policy, preference of the custodial parent, and reasonableness of the cost. If both parents' insurance plans cover the child, the divorce decree should designate which parent's plan is primary, and which is secondary. The difference between primary and secondary health insurance plans is essentially that doctors will use the primary plan to cover the child's health care costs first, and then the secondary plan only as needed to cover any remaining costs.

The court will usually order that all out-of-pocket costs of the child's portion of any insurance premium actually paid by a parent be split 50-50 by the parents, though sometimes the court will order otherwise. If you are the parent who paid the premium costs and you need to be reimbursed half the cost by the other parent, one way of getting paid is to receive credit against the base child support award (if you are the payor spouse).

Uninsured Medical Expenses: All uninsured and un-reimbursed medical and dental expenses, such as deductibles and co-payments, will usually be split 50-50 by the parents, though sometimes the court will order otherwise. However, these expenses must be "reasonable and necessary," or else the court will not enforce the non-paying parent to contribute his or her half.

12. How can I enforce the other parent to pay his or her share of the medical expenses?

You must give written notice of your expenses to the other parent within 30 days of payment. For payments or changes in insurance, you can give notice within 30 days to either the other parent, or to ORS. If you gave notice and the other parent does not pay his or her share, you can file a motion to ask the court to enforce the other parent to pay his or her share, and also to ask for an award of your attorney fees.

13. Who will pay for my child's child care expenses?

Child care expenses are expenses for daycare. If the custodial parent's decision to spend money on such child care is reasonable and work-related, each parent will be required to split the cost 50-50. The court might also require a 50-50 split for child care expenses incurred for the custodial parent's career or occupational training (i.e. education). To obtain the noncustodial parent's share of the child care costs, you must notify him or her with proof of the child care expense within 30 days. ORS can get involved to collect child care, but only if the child care amount is included in the same court order that awards child support.

14. Must the child care expenses be related to the custodial parent's work or training/education, or could they also be related to the noncustodial parent's work or training/education?

Child care expenses typically can be related only to the work or occupational training/education of the custodial parent for the court to order the parents to split the cost 50/50. If the noncustodial parent spends money on child care for purposes related to his or her own work (or training/education), the court will not order the custodial parent to reimburse any of the cost, unless the parents agree to it in their divorce petition or the court otherwise finds it to be in the interest of justice. 

15. How does extended parent-time affect my child support obligation? Specifically, if my child spends extended parent-time with me, the noncustodial parent, will I owe less in child support?

Yes, under certain circumstances. If there is a written agreement or a court order that the child is to spend 30 consecutive days of extended parent-time with the noncustodial parent, the noncustodial parent's child support obligation will be reduced, but only for that time period, as such:

If the child is with the noncustodial parent for at least 25 of those 30 days, the child support amount will be reduced by 50% for the time period spent in the noncustodial parent's care.
If the child is with the noncustodial parent for 12 to 24 of those 30 days, the child support amount will be reduced by 25% for the time period spent in the noncustodial parent's care.

16. How do I receive an adjustment in my child support due if I have participated in extended parent-time as the noncustodial parent, and ORS withholds my income?

You need to provide ORS with written documentation of the extended parent-time schedule, including the beginning and ending dates. This documentation can be in the form of a court order, or a voluntary written agreement between you and the other parent.

You will need to pay the full amount for the month in which you had extended parent-time, but if you owe no past-due support, ORS will reimburse you later, either in the month following the extended parent-time, or the month following your submission of documentation. This means that the custodial parent should expect less in child support during whichever of those months the reimbursement takes place.

17. How do I receive an adjustment in my child support due if I have participated in extended parent-time as the noncustodial parent, but ORS does not withhold my income every month?

You and the custodial parent must work out payment of the adjusted amount between yourselves. The court can get involved if needed, but ORS will not get involved.

18. Can I claim my child as a tax exemption?

That depends on what you and the other parent agree to in writing; or in the absence of an agreement, what the court orders. It is not uncommon for parents to agree to switch off every year, i.e., one parent gets to claim the child as a dependent for federal and state income tax purposes on even years, and the other parent claims on odd years. But you can agree to other arrangements, as long as each parent claiming an exemption will actually receive a tax benefit from the exemption. (For example, a parent who makes a very high salary might not even receive a benefit).

Some Utah divorce decrees include a "buy out" provision where a spouse can purchase the other spouse's right to claim a dependent child on his or her federal and state income tax filings for an amount equivalent to the value that parent would have received had he or she claimed the child. That way, the parent who would receive the greater benefit claims the child.

If the parents are not able to agree and thus the terms of tax exemptions are left to the court's choosing, the court will primarily consider the relative contribution of each parent to the cost of raising the child. It will also consider the relative tax benefit to each parent.

19. What if both parents try to claim the child as a tax exemption in the same year?

The IRS will ask the parents for an explanation, and might impose penalties.

20. Do I need to keep paying child support after my child turns 18?

If your child turns 18 before graduating high school, you will still need to pay child support during the normal and expected year of graduation, until the child has graduated. Otherwise, your obligation to pay child support for that child ends when the child turns 18. At that time, your base child support will be automatically adjusted to the number of remaining children for whom child support is due.

Exceptions:

  • Your duty to pay child support could be extended past the time your child turns 18 if your child is disabled and dependent (i.e., incapacitated from earning enough money to support himself).
  • Or, your duty to pay child support could be shortened. Your obligation could be terminated prior to your child turning 18 for any of the following reasons:
    • Your child is emancipated,
    • self-supporting,
    • married, or
    • a member of the U.S. armed forces.


21. How will child support be calculated under joint physical custody?

The courts use the same tables but a different formula to calculate child support for joint physical custody. The formula is quite complicated, so the best way to figure out which parent will be required to pay base child support and the approximate amount is to use the ORS Calculator, making sure to fill in line 9.

The child support award under joint physical custody will depend on a number of factors, including how many overnights a year each parent will have with the child, and each parent's adjusted gross income. Generally, the more overnights you have and the less you earn in income, the less likely you will be to owe child support and the more likely the other parent will be to owe you support.

Examples:

  • If both parents earn the exact same adjusted gross income, and if their overnights are almost exactly split, so that the mother has the child 182 overnights each year, and the father has the child 183 overnights, the mother might be required to pay as little as $4 per month to the father (depending on income). The father would pay nothing to the mother.
  • But if the parents earn the same income and the mother has the child only 120 overnights while the father has the child 245 overnights, the mother will need to pay a good amount of child support every month. For example, if each parent makes $3000 monthly adjusted gross income (for a combined $6000), and there is one child, the mother will pay $352 per month. This child support obligation would be less if her adjusted gross income were lower, or if the father's adjusted gross income were higher.
  • Let's still say the mother has the child 120 overnights while the father has the child 245 overnights, but instead of equal monthly incomes, the mother only earns $1,500 adjusted gross income per month while the father earns $10,000. Here, the mother will owe $116 a month in child support rather than $352.
    • But if the mother had a few more overnights, say 140 total (and the father had 225), then the father would actually owe her $9 a month, due to his larger income.

Extended parent-time rules (as explained in previous Q&As) do not apply to joint physical custody.

22. How will child support be calculated under split custody?

Similar to joint custody, the tables are the same but a different formula is used, and that formula is fairly complicated. The best way to estimate your child support under a split custody arrangement is to use the ORS Calculator, making sure to fill in line 8.

Examples:

  • If there are two children, each parent takes custody of one child each, and both parents earn the exact same adjusted gross income, no child support will be owed by anyone.
  • If there are two children, each parent takes custody of one child, and the mother earns $3,000 monthly adjusted gross income while the father earns $1,500: the mother will owe the father $184 a month.
  • A more complicated example: the mother earns more but also takes custody of more kids. There are three children, and the mother has custody of two; the father has custody of one. The mother earns a little more than the father, say $5,000 adjusted gross a month, whereas the father earns $4,000. Because the mother has custody of more children, the father will end up owing the mother $194 a month in child support, even though he makes less than her.
    • However, if the mother made significantly more than the father, she could possibly owe the child support, even though she has custody of more children.

23. What should I do if I am signed up with ORS, but then the noncustodial parent moves out of Utah?

You should check with ORS to make sure ORS is aware of the noncustodial parent's new address. ORS will either directly send to the noncustodial parent's employer in the new state a notice to withhold income, or ORS will ask the new state's child support agency to take over the child support case. If the case is sent over to the new state's agency and thus becomes that state's case, ORS will no longer have authority over it.

24. What should I do if I am signed up with ORS, but then I, the custodial parent, move out of Utah?

Before you move out of state, follow the Utah Relocation statute, and make sure you are not unilaterally interfering with the other parent's parent time. Get the court's approval first. You should also inform ORS and contact your new state's child support agency and ensure that Utah and your new state are in contact and working together on your case.

25. What should I do if I already have a child support order from another state, but either the other parent or I move to Utah?

You should register the child support order in Utah. Utah will not have the authority to enforce the order until Utah registration takes place.

To register it, you'll need to file a form with the court called a "Request to Register a Foreign Support or Income-Withholding Order." This needs to be filed in the district court of the county where the children live, or if they do not live in Utah, the county where you live. After filing the form, you must wait to see if the other parent asks for a hearing on the matter. If he or she does not ask within 20 days of being served, your child support order will become automatically registered in Utah. If the other parent does request a hearing, a commissioner or judge will need to decide whether the order should be registered or not.

After the support order has been registered, you can apply to sign up for Utah's Office of Recovery Services (ORS) if so desired.