Nevada law imposes an obligation on the parents of a child to provide necessary support, health care, education, and maintenance. The duty exists for every child under age eighteen (18). Even if the parents agree on the amount of support, the agreement is subject to specific statutory and regulatory provisions and court review.
In Clark County and throughout Nevada, state laws and regulations govern court orders for child support. New regulations filed on October 30, 2019, by the Department of Health and Human Services (LCB File No. R183-18), take effect on February 1, 2020. The regulations will be codified in Chapter 425 of the Nevada Administrative Code.
The new regulations replace existing rules and establish child support guidelines that differ substantially from the formula applied prior to the effective date. The changes affect child support cases decided after February 1, 2020. They will apply to previous cases only if the case qualifies for modification or adjustment (discussed further below).
The child support regulations state that a support order “must be based on the obligor’s earnings, income and other evidence of ability to pay.” For purposes of a child support obligation, the party with primary custody is the obligee, and the other party is the obligor. The regulations include complex rules for calculating support in specific situations.
As of February 1, 2020, the regulations set revised guidelines for calculation of a child support obligation. The calculation is presumed to meet the basic needs of a child, but the presumption may be rebutted by evidence.
The schedule for the base child support obligation is as follows:
The regulations define gross income for these calculations in expansive detail, stating what is and is not included for determining child support under the guidelines. The rules also include other criteria for the court to follow in determining support.
In applying the guidelines, if the court determines that the total economic circumstances of an obligor limit the ability to pay child support in the amount determined under the guidelines, the child support obligation must be set by using a low-income schedule designated by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
The regulations require that every Nevada support order issued or modified by a court must include a provision specifying the medical support for the child. The order may set forth details relating to the requirement. The court also must consider the costs of childcare paid by both parties and make an equitable division of those costs.
If parties agree on the amount of support, the agreement must be in writing and comply with specific enumerated requirements in the regulations. The stipulation also must be approved and adopted as an order of the court.
The court has authority to reject a support agreement between the parties, if the judge determines that the agreement was coerced or the support obligation does not meet the needs of the child. If the parties cannot agree on the amount of child support, the court determines the support obligation in accordance with the guidelines outlined above.
The new regulations recognize that the support guidelines do not provide the right amount in all circumstances. The court has authority to adjust a child support obligation based on the specific needs of a child and the economic circumstances of the parties. The rules also allow a party to rebut the base support amount by presenting evidence demonstrating that the amount determined by applying the guidelines does not meet a specific child’s needs.
The enumerated criteria for a judge to use in deviating from the standard support guidelines include:
The judge may utilize any of these factors to increase or decrease the support obligation amount. If the judge changes the support amount, the court must provide findings of fact that include the child support obligation that would have been set under the guidelines and the basis for deviation from the guidelines.
If the court determines through evidence that an obligor is underemployed or unemployed without good cause, the court may impute income to the obligor. The regulations specify in detail a number of factors for the court to take into account in calculating imputed income in this situation.
Under the regulations, modification of a child support order must be based on a change in circumstances, unless a law or regulation otherwise permits the modification or adjustment. The regulation includes specific provisions relating to automatic termination or modification of an order when a child reaches eighteen (18) years of age.
The new regulations include specific provisions relating to support obligations of incarcerated or involuntarily institutionalized individuals. The provisions address a number of issues, including whether incarceration and institutionalization qualify as a change in circumstances warranting review and adjustment of a support order based on the obligor’s ability to pay.
The preceding discussion outlines the general principles of Nevada law and the new regulations regarding child support. These provisions are extremely complex. In any situation where a Clark County court is making a determination about child support, representation by an experienced family law attorney is essential to protect a parent’s rights and interests.
When a judge determines support in a Las Vegas child support case, the specified amount in the final court order depends heavily on the evidence presented to the court on behalf of the responsible parent. If a parent does not have legal representation, that parent is at a significant disadvantage in providing evidence to the court and demonstrating factors that could affect the support amount. Representation by an attorney knowledgeable about the revised guidelines and rules is essential.
If you face child support or child custody issues in Las Vegas, Henderson, or elsewhere in Clark County, Las Vegas family law attorney Joseph Gersten is here to help. Attorney Gersten understands the difficulty and emotional stress that accompanies any legal matter relating to children. He will evaluate your case based on his extensive experience and skill and protect your rights and interests.
Your initial consultation is always free-of-charge at The Gersten Law Firm. Call 702.857.8777 or complete our online form to schedule an appointment.