Kyle Winter: A family law series: Understanding child support basics



There is little argument that every child needs financial and emotional support to grow and flourish. As the parent, it is your duty to support your children from the time of birth, including pregnancy and birth related expenses, until the child reaches the age of majority (in Nevada, 18 years of age) and is no longer enrolled in high school. This obligation is true even if the parents are not married and even when one parent has not been, or is not involved in the child’s life. Although there are exceptions to this scenario, this is the case for most family situations.

As indicated in the first article of this series, Joint Petitions and the Initial Custody Determination, the custodial arrangement affects the amount of child support that may be awarded in any case. For instance, child support will be calculated differently between parents who share joint legal custody and situations where one parent is the primary custodian and the other is awarded visitation rights. Specifically, when parents share joint physical custody, each parent is required to provide a minimum level of support for his or her child, specified by the legislature as a percentage of gross income, depending on the number of children, and absent special circumstances (18% for one child; 25% for two children; 29% for three children; 31% for four children; and an additional 2% for each additional child). The Court will calculate the appropriate percentage of gross income for each parent, subtract the difference between the two, and require the parent with the higher income to pay the parent with the lower income that difference. On the other hand, when one parent has primary physical custody and the other has visitation rights, the noncustodial parent will be required to pay the appropriate percentage of gross income as provided above.

Once the appropriate formula is used to determine the presumptive amount of child support, the Court has the authority in certain situations to deviate from these amounts. In considering whether a deviation is necessary, the Court will consider numerous factors including: the cost of health insurance and child care; the special education needs of the child, if any; the legal responsibly of the parents to support others; any public assistance paid to support the child; the cost of transportation to and from visitation; the relative income of both parents; and the amount of time the child spends with each parent. However, and unless specific written findings are made relevant to these factors supporting a deviation, application of the formulas enumerated above is mandatory.

Importantly, once an order for child support has been entered, review of that order must be made upon request of either parent at least every 3 years or upon a showing of changed circumstances. For purposes of modification, the law provides that a change of twenty percent or more in the gross monthly income of a parent who is subject to an order for the support of a child constitutes changed circumstances requiring a review for modification. Upon such review, or in the event someone is found to have become willfully underemployed to avoid his or her child support obligation, the Court can modify the prior support award and impute a gross monthly income on one of the parties, if it determines necessary.

If you are a parent, it is important that you understand your rights and responsibilities in regards to family law and child support. The experienced team of attorneys at Allison MacKenzie are here to provide representation in all family law matters, including the proper determination of child support. Should you require more information or have questions, please visit: or call: 775.687.0202.

Kyle Winter is a Nevada native and attorney at Allison MacKenzie Law Firm in Carson City. This home grown talent focuses his practice in the areas of Family Law, Estate Planning, Guardianships and Probate Law.

After graduating from Carson High School, Kyle attended the University of Nevada, Reno. In 2009, he graduated with a degree in Criminal Justice and an emphasis in Philosophy. In 2013, he obtained his Doctor of Jurisprudence Degree from Gonzaga University, located in Spokane, Washington. Dedicated to serving the Northern Nevada community, Kyle returned to the area to begin his legal career clerking for the Honorable James E. Wilson, Jr. at Nevada’s First Judicial District Court, in Carson City, and then for the Honorable Jerome M. Polaha at Nevada’s Second Judicial District Court, in Reno.


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