Divorce – Case Law Update – Child Support

free-vector-scales-of-justice_099380_Scales_of_justiceOn October 21, 2015, the Oregon Court of Appeals issued an opinion regarding how child support is calculated.  In Adams and Adams, 276 Or App 423 (2015), father was ordered to pay $805 per month in child support based on his monthly income at the time of trial of $4,885 as an instructor for the United States Army.

Subsequently, Father was discharged from his job and stopped paying child support, and remarried.  He moved to modify his child support obligation based on the fact that he had been discharged from his job and had been unable to find another job.  Unable to find work, Father borrowed $25,000 to start a CrossFit gym, but at the time of the hearing on the motion to modify child support, the gym was not generating income.  Father’s only income at that time was $400 per month for service in the National Guard.

At the hearing, Father also testified about his monthly personal and business expenses, which totaled $4,880.  Father testified that he had been able to meet those expenses by using his savings account, which was nearly empty.  At the time of the hearing, Father was being supported by his new wife, whose military disability benefits paid his expenses.

The trial court used Father’s expenses of $4,880 to set his new child support payments at $1,158.  Father appealed, arguing that the the trial court should have set his child support payments based on his actual or potential income, rather than his expenses.

The Court of Appeals agreed with Father.  Presumptive child support payments are calculated based on the requirements of the Oregon Administrative Rules (OAR 137-050-0700 to 137-050-0765) (Oregon provides a calculator to determine presumptive child support amounts under these rules here).  Under, OAR 137-050-0715, a parent’s income can include only the parent’s own actual or potential income (potential income may be used if it is greater than the actual income).  The Court of Appeals held that the trial court erred in relying on Father’s new wife’s income to determine Father’s income for the purposes of calculating the presumptive child support amount.  The case was reversed and remanded to the trial court for redetermination of Father’s child support obligation.