On January 25, 2020 we released our 2020 Kansas child support calculator supporting AO 307. You can click HERE to view the 2020 child support guidelines. This blog will be updated over the coming days with more information about the changes to the 2020 guidelines and how we've taken these changes into consideration within our software platform.
The first thing we will point out is that eFamilyTools provides all our existing customers the ability to print their existing 2019 and prior Kansas child support forms, allowing direct comparison to 2020 data. However, the calculation algorithm has been replaced with the newer 2020 version. So, you will be allowed to print your existing data on the latest 2019 forms, but if any changes are made to the case/worksheet and saved, the 2020 guidelines will be applied and the newer forms will be used. If you are familiar with our software, you will recall there is a version status window to the right of the screen informing you of the version status of your existing worksheet.
Child Support Tables
Likely the most widely impacting change to the 2020 guidelines is the change to the child support tables. Child support changes are all over the map. At the lowest income ranges, we see increases of over 14%, where higher income ranges see decreases of around 9%. You can find a comparison table HERE which was compiled by the economist contracted by the committee. You can try to estimate the change to your case based on these values, but there are several other changes that may affect the outcome, so it’s always best to simply recalculate the case from a clean sheet.
Ability to Pay
There is a new check in the guidelines which provides for a self-support reserve by using the Federal Poverty Guidelines. This works by comparing a parent’s gross income against the poverty guidelines to ensure there are sufficient funds available to afford a self-reserve in addition to the ordered child support obligation. If there is, this check has no effect on the outcome of the order. If there is insufficient funds, the payor’s obligation will be essentially what they are able to pay. If the parent earns less than the poverty amount (currently $1041 per month), the child support obligation will be $0 and the court will use discretion to decide if any child support amount will be ordered.
Here are a couple examples
Parent’s Income = $1500, Calculated Child Support = $300
Ability to pay = $1500 - $1041 = $459
Ordered obligation = $300
Parent’s Income = $1100, Calculated Child Support = $300
Ability to pay = $1500 - $1041 = $59
Ordered obligation = $59
For nearly 2 decades there has been what is called a “Dissolution Burden” included in the guidelines which was always been considered by the committee to sufficiently account for the second home required in the dissolution of a marriage. For years parents and practitioners have lobbied for further consideration of low income parents to ensure they have sufficient funds. It’s unclear what the thought process was here, but possibly the consideration of poverty is a Federal mandate. That said, the method seems solid and uses referenced data which is good step forward.
When there has been a reduction due to ability to pay, eFamilyTools will report this to you in the child support summary window. It will provide the originally calculated obligation and what the discounted obligation is. The discounted obligation is what is printed on the child support form per the guidelines. Our testing has revealed that this new rule may not be used by the majority of cases, but it is not uncommon and for those poverty-stricken families, it will reduce the obligation.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
SSDI is another new consideration in the 2020 guidelines. There are different forms of SSDI, all which are considered income for the purposes of calculating child support. The 2020 guidelines do not change this aspect. However, there are now specific instructions for how to handle payments made directly to the custodian of a dependent of an SSDI benefit. For example, if a non-residential parent is disabled and receives SSDI payments, he/she may also receive supplemental payments for his/her dependent children. However, such SSDI payments are made to the custodian of the child directly. The 2020 guidelines instruct, per 1975 Supreme Court case law, that such payments shall directly reduce the obligation of the paying (non-residential) parent. However, if there is an excess or overpayment due to the SSDI benefits, the excess shall be considered a “gratuity.” If, for example, a paying parent owes $250/month in child support obligation, and the SSDI payment received by the residential parent is $500/month, this has the effect of reducing the paying parent’s obligation to $0 and the additional excess $250/month is just considered a “gratuity.” We will probably cover this involuntary gratuity in another blog article. We are interested to get feedback from parents and practitioners as to how this affects cases.
eFamilyTools implements this new feature, but since the guidelines are not perfectly clear how negative payments should be handled, the SSDI might create some unintended hiccups in child support calculation. For example, if a shared residential parent uses the EPT formula and calculation results in a negative payment (payor/payee roles switch), we now have a negative payment by the payor implying he/she is receiving support. That is correct, but it can make for some interesting calculations if SSDI is involved. The same situation could result if a paying parent is also incurring all the expenses for a child with disabilities and has considerable deviations in section E. If the out of pocket expenditures are high enough, it could result in a negative obligation, implying he/she is receiving support. Remember, that the old “not less than zero” rule was rightfully tossed aside in 2016. We say “rightfully” because the committee was essentially tinkering with the numbers to consider a specific case while ignoring the mathematical consequences.
There are only minor changes for shared residency in 2020. Since shared residency has been a hotly debated topic between parents and the committee since 2008, maybe there has been reached some level of acceptance and agreement amongst parents and practitioners.
One significant change to shared residency is the removal of “nearly equal” language which implies that shared residential parents must have exactly 50.00% parenting time or they do not qualify. We’ll see how that works out going forward. The only changes to the calculations in shared residency are for parents using the EPT formula. The percentage direct expenses have been adjusted slightly, but the threshold incomes and consideration of clothing remain unchanged.
We need to point out that there is likely an error in the guidelines on the EPT worksheet. We see that the percentages on page 66 of the 2020 guidelines (markup version) reflect some decreases. That looks okay. But, if you look close at line 7, the directions are backwards. Parents sharing clothing should use line 8, not line 9. But, if we look at the example EPT worksheet on page 88, the percentages are different. Line 7 also reads different. This should be corrected by the committee, but it’s likely this error will remain in the guidelines for the next 4 years, so we’ll point it out here.
Parenting Time Adjustment (PTA)
The 2020 guidelines double the PTA percentages for parents with 35% or greater parenting time. Parenting time threshholds remain the same, but the application of the adjustment is now applied to line D4. While we’re not exactly sure how the committee arrived at doubling the percentages, the change to multiply the PTA by line D4 was actually suggested to the committee in 2016 by Brian Mull (founder of eFamilyTools). A presentation is available to illustrate this point if you’re interested.
The committee has, for years, chased the elusive “cliff effect.” The cliff effect is where the child support obligation changes significantly when crossing from 49% to 50% parenting time. It’s just speculation that the committee believes doubling the percentages will correct or mitigate this issue. Unfortunately it will not. There are several reasons for this which would probably be a good candidate for another blog article.
The key takeaway is that the PTA has been fundamentally changed, so expect to see a different PTA amount. eFamilyTools incorporates all the PTA changes in version 20.0.0.
Cost of Living Differentials (COLD)
Formerly the Inter-state Pay Differential, the new COLD adjustment utilizes a different data metric to adjust a parent's income when the parent lives and/or works outside of the state of Kansas. The new data metrics are called Regional Price Parities and they are published annually by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. They are essentially a cost of living index against the U.S. average. Since the Kansas child support guidelines are based on Kansas income, if the parent lives outside of Kansas, the income must be converted to Kansas dollars to be valid. Here's an example of how it works.
Parent A lives in Colorado and earns $6000/month gross
Colorado RPP = 103.2
Kansas RPP = 90.0
Adjustment Factor = 90/103.2 = 0.8721 or 87.21%
Adjusted Income = 6000 x 0.8721 = $5233/month
The adjusted income is what would be used to calculate the child support obligation.