Determining High Income Child Support

Why is the answer to, “What will I have to pay in child support when my income and my spouses’ income is more than $150,000 combined?” not so easy?

One of the first questions I get from potential clients and clients alike is, “How much will I have to pay in child support?” and “How much will I get in child support?”    Ordinarily, the answer is easily obtainable by a calculation using the Ohio Child Support Guidelines Worksheet which applies statutory guidelines set forth by the Ohio Revised Code Section 3109.021.  The basic information used for child support calculations includes each parties’ income, the parent’s work-related child care expenses, health insurance premiums incurred for the minor children, the local income taxes paid by each parent, and whether any other child support or spousal support is being paid or received by either party.  “Running the child support is not rocket science” is the phrase I usually use, until the combined gross income of the parties is $150,000 or more.  When calculating high income child support the trial court must determine the income of both parties.  Once the income is determined, the incomes are them combined for the purpose of applying the child support guidelines.  If the calculation yields an amount more than $150,000, then the income qualifies for the “high income” child support.  The trial court must then determine in each individual case what child support amount is in the best interests of the minor children.  The court must look at the life style of the children, if there are any special needs and the incomes of the parents.  The “extrapolation method” is then used.  What is the “extrapolation method” you ask?  In Cummin v Cummin the Fourth Appellate Court in Ohio (12-21-2015) upheld the trail court’s ruling in extrapolating the child support income and imputing income to a doctor.  The Court of Appeals exhaustively analyzed how to calculate child support where the parent’s combined income was more than $150,000.  The trial court made an initial determination and attached to the original divorce decree a child support guideline worksheet basing the support on the parties’ actual income, rather than capping the income to $150,000 for purposes of calculating the support.  At the time the parties’ income was over $300,000. The court used the extrapolation method.  Three years later the trial court modified its previous award of child support again using the extrapolation method.  Since the Appellant did not originally object to the trial court’s method, the court deemed it was improper for him to raise the objection for the first time. Too late, buddy, but I am not sure the objection would have made a difference.  The Appellate court further stated that even if the argument is not waived, the trail court was within its’ discretion (both statutorily and case law wise) to either cap the income at $150,000 or use the parties’ actual income when crafting a child support order.  Case by case.  Since there is no statutory calculation for child support on “high income” parties the broad discretion has resulted in a wide variety of child support orders, even when the facts of the case seem very similar.  Like I said, not such an easy question to answer.