Talk to an attorney
You are not required to hire an attorney, but calculating child support can be complicated. Consider talking to an attorney to go over your options. One way to talk to an attorney is to visit a free legal clinic. Clinics provide general legal information and give brief legal advice. You might also hire an attorney for just part of your case or to do one particular thing, rather than represent you for the whole case. For more information, see our page on Finding Legal Help.
Parents have a legal duty to support their minor children. Unless a minor is emancipated, child support continues until the child is 18 or has completed high school, whichever is later. In some cases, the court may order child support to continue after age 18 for a disabled child who remains a dependent. Establishing child support may be part of divorce, separate maintenance, temporary separation, annulment, parentage or child welfare. Depending on the type of case, a support order may be entered by a district court or a juvenile court. The Utah Office of Recovery Services (ORS) may issue administrative orders concerning child support.
Calculating child support
Utah law establishes Child Support Guidelines to calculate a parent's child support obligation. The guidelines have three components:
- Base child support
- Medical care
- Child care expenses
A table determines the total support obligation for the children, which is shared by the parents according to their incomes. The non-custodial parent pays child support to the custodial parent. Child support is calculated by a formula established by Utah Code Section 78B-12-301.
The courts have fill-in-the-blank Child Support Worksheets to help you calculate child support and an interactive web Child Support Calculator (orscsc.dhs.utah.gov) that will make the calculations and prepare the worksheets for you. The calculations are different depending on the custody arrangements; make sure you use the correct forms. For more information about the different types of child custody, see our page on Child Custody and Parent Time.
Medical expenses and child care expenses
If a health insurance policy is reasonably available, the cost of the minor children's portion of the premium is shared equally by the parents, as is the cost of any non-insured medical expenses, including deductibles and co-payments.
Parents are also required to share work-related child-care expenses equally.
Award of tax exemption for dependent children
A child support order can establish which parent can claim the child as a dependent for federal and state income tax purposes. Unless the parties agree who can claim the tax exemption, the court will award the exemption. The court will consider as the primary factor the relative contribution of each parent to the cost of raising the child, and among other factors, the relative tax benefit to each parent. The court may not award an exemption to a parent unless the award will result in a tax benefit to that parent. The court may not award an exemption to the non-custodial parent if that parent is not current in their child support payments.
If both parents try to claim the child as a dependent in the same tax year, the Internal Revenue Service will ask the parents for an explanation and may impose penalties.
Deviating from the child support guidelines
Generally, child support is set according to the guidelines. The court can order a different amount if one (or both) of the parties asks for a different amount and shows good reasons for the amount requested. If there are good reasons not to follow the guidelines, the court's worksheets and calculator will not apply. See Utah Code Section 78B-12-202 and Section 78B-12-210.
Paying and collecting child support
Court orders govern how and when the child support payments are made. For example, the court may enter an order requiring a non-custodial parent to make arrangements with their employer to withhold the child support amount from the parent's earnings, unless the parties agree to another method of payment. Child support payments may be made between the parties or through the Office of Recovery Services (ORS). ORS also helps establish and enforce financial and medical support for children. More information is available at Office of Recovery Services - Child Support (ors.utah.gov)
Enforcing a child support order
All parties must obey court orders. Custodial parents may not withhold parent time, even if child support is not being paid. A parent may not withhold child support even if parent time is being denied. If a party does not obey a court order, the other party may file a motion asking the court to enforce the order. The enforcement order can include a judgment for money owed. The court may also find a party in contempt of court and order the party to pay a fine or serve time in jail. For information and forms, see our page on Motion to Enforce Domestic Order (Order to Show Cause).
Modifying a child support order
Either parent can ask the court to increase or decrease the child support obligation, if there have been significant changes in income or in other circumstances since the support order was entered. For information and forms, see our page on Modifying Child Support.
Registering a foreign order
Before an order from another state can be enforced or modified it first must be registered in Utah. For information and forms, see our page on Registering a Foreign Order.
Child Support Worksheets
- Use the Online Court Assistance Program (OCAP) to create the documents to ask for an initial child support order in divorce and parentage cases.
- Use the Child Support Calculator (orscsc.dhs.utah.gov) to prepare child support worksheets suitable for filing.
- Child Support Obligation Worksheet/Required Location Information Form - PDF
- Split Custody Worksheet and Instructions - PDF
- Sole Custody Worksheet and Instructions - PDF
- Joint Physical Custody Worksheet and Instructions - PDF
- Children in the Father's Home Worksheet and Instructions - PDF
- Children in the Mother's Home Worksheet and Instructions - PDF
- Insurance Premium and Child Care Adjustment Worksheet and Instructions - PDF
- Base combined child support obligation table and low income table Utah Code Section 78B-12-301
- Answering a Complaint or Petition
- Child Custody and Parent Time
- Child Support
- Debt Division
- Default Judgments
- Divorce Mediation
- Fee Waiver
- Filing Procedures
- Finding Legal Help
- Going to Court
- How to get a Temporary Order
- Informal Trial of Support, Custody and Parent-Time
- Judicial Recognition of a Relationship as a Marriage
- Mandatory Education in Divorce and Temporary Separation
- Modifying Child Custody
- Modifying Child Support
- Modifying Parent-time
- Motion to Enforce Domestic Order (Order to Show Cause)
- Ninety-Day Waiting Period in Divorce Cases
- Online Court Assistance Program (OCAP)
- Parenting Plans
- Property Division
- Public and Non-public Records
- Separate Maintenance
- Serving Papers
- Temporary Separation
- Utah Statutes, Title 30, Husband and Wife
- Utah Statutes, Title 78B, Chapter 12, Utah Child Support Act
- Utah Statutes, Title 78B, Chapter 13, Utah Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act
- Utah Statutes, Title 78B, Chapter 14, Uniform Interstate Family Support Act