Child support - new table to determine the amount
The Ministry of Justice published new guidance material for determining the amount of alimony for children who are not brought up by their parents together. It is a more sophisticated replacement for the simpler table from year 2010. Although it is only a recommendation, in practice it is relied on by Courts as well as parents in out-of-court agreements.
In general, a parent has a maintenance obligation towards a child who is unable to support himself or herself. The parent who is obliged to pay maintenance is also referred to as the obligor parent. But how to determine the amount of child support? The basic considerations for determining the amount of child support are:
1. the standard of living of the children should be essentially the same as that of the parents;
2. the child's reasonable needs.
The first aspect precedes (i.e. is more important than) the second.
However, the Ministry's table does not take into account many parametric circumstances that occur regularly, as well as the specific circumstances that may arise in particular cases. As for the common circumstances that the table does not take into account, these include, for example, the overall financial circumstances of the child's parent, the child's place of residence, and the earning potential of adult children in education. As regards specific circumstances, the table does not take into account the increased costs of children with special needs (e.g. disabled children); the situation where the obliged parent forgoes better earnings without a serious reason; higher number of maintenance obligations (the table assumes a maximum of 4 children); obligor parents with highly above-standard incomes.
How is child support determined?
Based on the net income of the obligor parent
Alimony is calculated on net income. In the case of employees, the income is "cleaned" of personal income tax, social security and health insurance premiums; on the other hand, overtime, bonuses, gratuities, etc. are not deducted. In the case of entrepreneurs, the tax return is used to determine at least an indicative average monthly net income. The Court will usually ask the parents to provide their pay slips for the last 12 months or the tax return for the last tax year. Income will also include welfare or other state benefits received, the parent's rental income, and other possible incomes.
The child's stage in life is important
The table is divided into 4 life stages of the child, namely Pre-school age (0-5 years); I. grade Primary school (6-10 years); II. grade Primary school (11-15 years); Secondary and higher education (16 years and above). The age ranges are indicative only. The level of education is a more accurate indicator of a child's needs.
The number of support obligations of the parent is taken into account
If the obliged parent has more than one child for whom he/she has a maintenance obligation, the table takes this into account. Different percentages are set for each stage of the child's life depending on the number of maintenance obligations the parent has. Thus, a two-year-old only child would be entitled to maintenance of 14% of the obligor parent's income, but if the child has three other young siblings, it would be 8%.
The amount of care and contact with the child is also taken into account
In practice, it is often the case that the obligor parent provides many of the child's ordinary needs - pays for the child's school lunches, buys the child clothes and hobbies, and spends a lot of time with the child (even though this parent does not have custody). Should he/she still pay the same maintenance as if he/she had not provided all of this? The guidance material now takes these cases into account. It uses the aspect of the number of days per month the child spends with the obligor parent. In particular, full days (with overnight stays) are counted.
- (Number of days per month with the obliged parent) / 30.4 = care ratio
- (1 - (care share)) * (provisional maintenance amount) = maintenance amount depending on care
However, if the number of days does not correspond to the extent to which the obligor parent contributes to the provision of the child's usual needs, the Court will instead assess the situation individually.
The Control amount
If the amount of child support (or the sum of the amounts for all children) is too high compared to the standard of living of the obliged parent, the maintenance may be adjusted. Therefore, a limit is set for the funds that the obligor parent should be left with. There are two ways of calculating this, and if the amounts come out differently, the higher one is used.
The first way of calculation is a % of the income according to the number of maintenance obligations (e.g. for 2 maintenance obligations it is 66% of the income). The second way is a fixed lower limit, determined in the same way as the "non-forfeitable amount" when calculating deductions from the obligor's income in execution and insolvency, and can be found using the Installment Calculator for Insolvency. In the box next to the number of children, "0" is selected, "no" is selected in the "spouse" box, and only the net wages are entered. The "wages to be paid" amount is the control amount.
The control amount is subtracted from the net income amount, and the result is an indicative maximum amount of child support. Should the calculated total amount of child support for one child interfere with the control amount, the child support is reduced so that the obligor parent is left with the control amount. In the case of multiple maintenance obligations, a calculation is used which reduces the individual maintenance amounts proportionately.
What about alimony increases? Alimony shall be increased if the child "moves on" to the next life stage according to the table. At the same time, if more than 3 years have passed since the previous child support determination but the child remains in the same life stage, it is appropriate to increase child support by 1% of the obligor parent's share of income. But child support may be changed anytime if the justified needs of the child change.
What about obligated parents with high above-standard incomes? There is not always a direct correlation between a parent's income and the amount of maintenance. According to the Constitutional Court, disproportionately high maintenance which allows the child to live a permanent work-free life even after finishing professional training may be contrary to the best interests of the child. Setting such high child support may also violate the right of the parent to bring up his or her child. Thus, the fact that the obligor parent is objectively able to pay a certain amount of alimony to the child does not mean that he or she should receive it under any conditions.
Should maintenance always be paid only in money at the hands of the other parent or at the hands of the child? No. The obligor parent may, for example, provide part of the child support in the form of a contribution to the child's building or other savings account, or purchase certain goods or services directly for the child.
Why do parents sometimes send money to each other's accounts? Can't child support claims be set off between parents? In practice, situations sometimes arise where parents send each other child support. This situation arises especially if the Court decides on alternate custody, and the parents have a similar standard of living. Each parent then takes turns caring for the child and also has a court-ordered obligation to contribute to the maintenance of the child by the other parent, usually to the hands (account) of the other parent. Why doesn't the Court provide that only one parent will send child support, and only the difference between the child support amounts? The answer is that the law prohibits offsetting child support claim for a minor who is not fully competent. Also, the child support is not the money of the parent, but money of the child. Therefore, the Court cannot order a "set-off" of child support claims. The advantage of such a ruling may be if one parent stops paying child support. The obligor parent may be ordered to pay child support in the monthly amount set in the judgment. However, if the parents agree on the amount of child support (non-married parents), only the "difference" can actually be sent.