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When Can a Judge Deviate from the RI Child Support Formula?


Like other states, Rhode Island has a formula to determine basic child support obligations. The federal government requires states to follow certain standards while allowing for customization.

The basic calculation for child support does not always meet the needs of the child or is otherwise unfair to the child or either parent. When this is the case, the judge has the authority to deviate from the formula. All support decisions are based on the best interests of the child.

The judge can deviate from the formula in a variety of situations:

  • To uphold the standard of living the child would have had if the parent had not divorced
  • To meet the extraordinary educational, physical, or emotional needs of the child
  • The custodial parent’s financial resources can dictate higher or lower support amounts
  • The noncustodial parent’s financial resources or needs can necessitate a change from the formula
  • The child has sources of income

Whenever a judge does not follow the established guidelines, they must justify in writing why they determined the support in the manner they did.

Basic Child Support Obligations

The combined monthly income of the parents (minus mandatory deductions) and the number of children needing support are the building blocks of Rhode Island’s support obligations. The state has a basic support obligation schedule that breaks down the financial responsibility. The table begins at $1,200 combined monthly income and continues in $50 increments to $35,000 per month.

At each increment, the amount of support is shown based on the number of children involved. If the parents have one child and make a combined $1,200 monthly, the support obligation is $50. Parents making $35,000 monthly with six children have a $6,632 monthly obligation.

Income Shares Model

Both parents have a legal and moral responsibility to financially support their children. Rhode Island uses the income shares model to divide the required support proportionally to each parent’s income. Looking again at the last example with parents making $35,000, one parent makes 60% of that total. They would be responsible for 60% of the $6,632, or $3,979.20. If that person is the noncustodial parent, they will pay their obligation to the other parent. If they are the custodial parent, they will receive 40% of the total, or $2,652.80, from the other parent.

Rhode Island typically requires income withholding with new or modified orders except if parents have entered a written agreement with a different arrangement.

Child support ends when the child turns 18 unless they are still enrolled in high school. Support can then continue until the age of 19. Courts can order child support until age 21 for children with a severe disability. A parent who disobeys a child support order can be held in contempt of court.

Legal Counsel for Complex Child Support Matters

Despite the use of the formula, child support can be complicated. At McIntyre Tate LLP, we go beyond the basics.

In addition to the mandatory deductions, you might have discretionary deductions that can reduce your overall monthly income. We are also skilled at detailing extraordinary expenses that demand a higher child support amount. Whether you need a strong voice in negotiations or in front of a judge, our legal team is tenacious, knowledgeable, and prepared.

Do you have questions about child support? Schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys by sending us a message online or calling (401) 351-7700.