Skip to Content

Rhode Island Supreme Court Upholds Child Support Guidelines


A recent case presented before the Rhode Island Supreme Court reiterated its policy of standing by the previously established guidelines for determining child support. The case, an appeal brought forward by Michael Vieira, sought to appeal that the family law judge who had initially decided their divorce had erred in several aspects of their decision.

One of the areas that came into question was the awarding of child support. The plaintiff in the case claimed that the justice in their divorce had overstepped their bounds by ordering him to pay $646 per month plus $125 for medical insurance to his ex, claiming he no longer and could no longer make the $30,000 per year he was making at the time of the decision.

In their written opinion, the court stated “It is well recognized that an absent parent’s ability to pay a child-support order ‘does not rest solely on his or her present earning capacity.’ It ‘includes other available means of compliance, as well as [the] capacity to acquire these means by the exercise of reasonable efforts.’”

What this essentially means is that when making a child support award, the court may be able to award more than the normal worksheets and formulas used to determine child support may say if the court can find evidence that the paying spouse has the ability to work and earn a higher level of income with reasonable effort. Because of the plaintiff’s history of employment as well as monetary decisions immediately following his separation, the Supreme Court ruled that the trial justice was correct in making this decision.

However, the plaintiff also appealed based on the fact that no traditional worksheet was ever actually filed during the divorce proceeding. Family law states that this worksheet can be overruled if the opinion of the justice finds that the amount determined by the worksheet is insufficient. However, because no worksheet was filed, the Supreme Court determined: “It does not appear, however, from either his decision or the record, that he considered the child-support guidelines in accordance with the dictates of § 15-5-16.2 and the Family Court administrative order. The record is devoid of any child-support guidelines worksheet, as is required.”

As a result, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the original Family Court for a proper determination of child support based on the established guidelines and processes.

If you need assistance with a divorce, the award-winning team at McIntyre Tate, LLP may be able to assist you. Our substantial experience and exceptional quality of client service has earned us several industry accolades, including being named one of the Best Law Firms by U.S. News & World Reportfor each of the last four years.

Schedule a consultation with McIntyre Tate, LLP today by calling (401) 351-7700.
Share To: