In Rhode Island, there is a Child Support Guideline Worksheet set by the State of Rhode Island’s Office of Child Support Services that must be followed when calculating child support payments. The guidelines take into consideration the monthly gross income of both parents as well as any deductions, adjustments, and payments of marital debts that have been allocated after a divorce. While the guidelines are a set standard, there are certain times that they can be modified or changed depending on the specific circumstances. Calculating child support | Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer

How Child Support Is Calculated in Rhode Island

When calculating child support payments, the Family Court will consider a variety of factors when determining a monthly amount. When a custody arrangement is determined and the amount of parenting time is awarded, a judge will decide whether the custodial parent is receiving or paying child support. Child support is based on a parent’s adjusted gross income. To determine this amount, regular income earnings are considered as well as other factors.

Other Factors in Determining Child Support Payments

  • Deductions to income such as medical expenses, retirement benefits, and life insurance premium payments
  • Additions to income such as bonuses, commissions, pensions, or severance pay
  • Other earnings such as royalty payments, dividends, rent, or a trust 
  • Preexisting child support payments in place
  • Childcare costs that are work-related
  • Number of additional minor dependents and if there are other custody agreements in place
  • The amount of health insurance premiums or medical expenses paid by the parents on behalf of the child

 In Rhode Island, the Family Court requires at least one parent to maintain health insurance coverage for the child if it is available through their employer at a reasonable cost.

Calculating Payments in Cases of Unemployment

If one parent is unemployed and ordered to pay child support, there are other factors used to calculate an amount. Income used for child support payments may come from other means.

Other Means of Income

  • Unemployment compensation
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Social security payments
  • Disability

In the event the non-custodial parent is voluntarily underemployed or unemployed, other factors can be considered to determine a reasonable amount that parent could be earning.

Factors for Determining Earning Power

  • Prior earning history and past employment
  • Educational level and job skills
  • Age and health of the parent
  • The current job market for the area where they reside and their income-earning potential
  • Barriers to employment such as a criminal record

In cases where the non-custodial parent is under or unemployed due to a disability that prevents them from working, a judge may order income to not be considered. This can vary depending on the circumstances.

Deviating From Standard Guidelines

There are some cases where the court will deviate from the standard calculation guidelines. If it is determined that sticking to the guidelines would be unfair to either the parent or the child, the court can deviate from them.

Court Considerations for Deviating From Standard Guidelines

  • Financial resources of the child and custodial parent, as well as the financial resources of the non-custodial parent
  • Standard of living the child experienced prior to divorce
  • Emotional and physical health and needs of the child
  • Educational needs of the child

If a deviation from the guidelines is approved, there must be a written explanation from the judge who ordered the change and determined that remaining within the guidelines was not in the best interest of the child.

Reasons Child Support May Be Paid Above the Standard Guidelines

  • The parent has assets that are of high value
  • The current standard of living and expenses are beyond what is possible on the gross income amount reported to the court
  • There are extraordinary or uncommon expenses that are needed for the child.

Modifying Child Support Payments

At times, child support payments may need to be modified. If there is a significant change in a parent’s employment such as a promotion or they’ve been laid-off, or a life change such as a change in the amount of time that the child is spending with one parent, a child support order can be modified by the court. If there has been no change in circumstances, there is a three-year wait from the issue date of the order to obtain a review.

To request a modification to the existing child support order due to a change in circumstances, a review from the State of Rhode Island’s Office of Child support Services will need to be requested. This review will be used to determine if there is enough evidence to justify a hearing in Family Court to modify and create a new child support order.

Paying and Enforcing Child Support

Once child support payments are calculated and a parent is ordered to make payments, the order will be enforced. Payments are typically withheld from the non-custodial parent’s wages by their employer, or arrangements can be made to have them sent as a lump sum payment. If the parent does not comply with the order to make payments, there can be several consequences.

Possible Consequences if Payments Aren’t Made

  • Suspending the person’s driver’s license
  • Reporting of nonpayment to the credit bureau
  • Placing a lien on personal property or real estate
  • Denying a passport
  • Being found in contempt of proceedings
  • Facing criminal prosecution

Contact a Rhode Island Family Law Attorney

In Rhode Island, a lawyer will not be provided by the Office of Child Support Services to provide representation for your case. Consulting with a family law attorney can protect both you and your children’s legal rights and can ensure that a fair amount is awarded for child support payments. An experienced lawyer can help determine the amount of child support to be paid, determine if any modifications need to be made, and enforce the order to pay child support.

Do You Need to Speak to a Rhode Island Family Law Attorney?

If you need to speak with an experienced Rhode Island divorce family law attorney, please contact us online or call our Warwick office directly at 401.946.3200 to schedule your free consultation. We help divorce clients in Providence, Warwick, and all areas of Rhode Island.


Christopher L. Russo
Helping Rhode Island personal injury victims for nearly three decades to get the compensation they deserve.