I recently received this inquiry from a subscriber:
“I have a case in which the mother and father have shared custody of two children and the mother has primary residential custody of the third child. The mother will claim all children on taxes. The parties will share direct expenses with regard to the two children that they have shared custody. How do you input this on the child support calculator?”
This is another example of the “creative couple” dilemma – How to apply the Guidelines for support where the parties’ time-sharing arrangements aren’t addressed by the Guidelines.
There are two residential “arrangements” in the scenario presented; Mom’s and Dad’s.
Since the guidelines don’t contemplate some children in a family being time-shared (and the rest not), we have to separate the children into two groups (time-shared and not time-shared) to determine the support for each group (since there should be an Equal Parenting Time child support adjustment for the time-shared children). I call this a “faux divided custody.”
In a true “divided custody,” the support for the two households (Mom’s vs. Dad’s) would be netted together to avoid each parent sending the other parent a check each month. The lower support obligation is subtracted from the higher support obligation) and the support differential would be payable by the higher obligated parent, but since we’re only separating the children for support calculations, and the support will be payable by only one parent, we’ll add the support amounts together to determine that parent’s total support obligation amount.
Proceed as follows:
Show Dad as “Residence with” parent for each of the two shared kids, & show them as time shared equally, with shared expenses.
Show Mom as the “Residence with” parent for the third, “non-shared” child. Answer “No” to the “time shared equally?” question.
Show Mom as receiving the tax deduction on all three children.
If all three children were in the same household (rather than the “faux” divided custody) their support would be determined using a three-child support table. We can ensure the same usage in the “faux” calculation, by indicating in the Multiple Family Application section on the Children page that Mom has 1 “other child” and Dad has 2 “other children,” and selecting “Yes” for both parents. That forces a three child table to be used for the one child in Mom’s home (counting as “other children” the two in Dad’s home) when calculating the worksheet for Mom’s home; and also a three child table to be used for the two children in Dad’s home (counting as “other children” the one in Mom’s home) when calculating the worksheet for Dad’s home. That may sound backward, but remember that in the MFA inputs, the two children in Father’s column are the two in his primary custody (although time-shared) for calculating Dad’s obligation to Mom for the single child in her household. Similarly, the one in Mom’s column in the MFA inputs is the single non-shared child in her primary custody.
You get two worksheets (since it’s a faux “divided” custody). If Dad has the higher line F.3 obligation on the worksheet for the shared children, add the two support amounts together. Why? – the support for the shared children (altho’ reduced by the sharing) will be payable by Dad (as the higher obligated parent), and the support for the unshared child will also be payable by Dad (since Mom is the custodial parent).
However, if Mom is the higher obligated parent for the shared children (which would make her the support Payor) and the custodial parent for the unshared child (which would make her the support recipient), netting together the two support obligations would be appropriate and the net support differential would be paid by the parent with the higher obligation to the other parent.