The magistrate disagreed. She refused to modify child support, stating that the statute required the magistrate to calculate guidelines based on the order, and not on what the parent child contact schedule actually was. The father therefore was left with supporting a child full time under a child support order that reflected a part time arrangement.
It is my opinion that the Judge and the Office of Child Support are right, although the statute could certainly be interpreted the way the magistrate has interpreted it. One part of the child support statute provides: “The legislature finds and declares as public policy that… child support orders should reflect the true costs of raising children…” Because the true cost of raising a child depends on how much time a child spends with his parent, it would seem that the court could take actual time spent with each parent into account. The other side would argue, however, that child support guidelines are in place to establish consistency in child support, and if the court took into account actual times a child stayed with each parent, then there would be more litigation and less consistency.
The problem began with the Family Court judge making a ruling that there was no “unanticipated” change in circumstances, even though the daughter had been living with her father full time for over a year. The Court should have modified the previous order.