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Guide to Calculating Child Support in Rhode Island
How is Rhode Island (RI) Child Support determined in divorce cases, paternity cases, child support cases and child visitation cases?

In most cases, child support is determined by the "Rhode Island Family Court Child Support Formula and Guidelines". In the vast majority of child support cases in Rhode Island, the minimum Rhode Island child support guideline amount is used to determine child support.

However, a parent has the right to seek more then the minimum guidelines because the guidelines are supposed to be the minimum amount a parent will receive as child support. In Theory, The Guidelines are intended to be the floor rather then the ceiling for child support. In actuality, the minimum guidelines are used in the vast majority of Rhode Island Child Support cases.

The court is entitled to look at the assets of a party in determining child support. The Family Court can also look at extraordinary expenses of either party and can look at the needs and expenses of the parties. The Court can look at any circumstances the judge believes appropriate in determining child support. If a person is underemployed or refusing to work when capable of working then the court can determine the earning capacity of the party. Some Judges consistently go over the minimum child support guidelines.

The Rhode Island Child Support guidelines uses an income shares model in which the adjusted gross income of both parents are used to determine the correct amount of child support. Essentially, the guidelines look at the combined adjusted Gross income of both parties. Adjusted gross income means the gross income of a party with certain required deductions from gross income for medical insurance & dental insurance. Another required deduction is for additional minor dependents (children). There are also certain discretionary deductions that some judges may allow such as life insurance costs.

After determining the combined adjusted gross income of the parties, the Rhode Island Child Support Guidelines should be utilized to determine what the state of Rhode Island believes that two parents with that amount of adjusted gross income would pay for support if the parents were still residing together. After that number is determined daycare expenses are added onto that amount.

The non custodial parent pursuant to the minimum guidelines should be obligated to pay a percentage of that amount set forth above that is the same same percentage of that persons adjusted gross income to the total adjusted gross income of both parties.

For example: If Mom makes $1000 a month and dad makes $4000 a month and each has $200 dollars of medical insurance payments then the adjusted gross income of mom is $800 and the adjusted gross income of dad is 3800. The combined adjusted gross income of both is $4600. Dad makes $82.6 percent of the combined adjusted gross income of the parties and is required to pay 82.6 percent of the minimum guideline amount guideline amount plus the daycare expenses.

The next step is to get a copy of the most recent version of the Rhode Island Child support Guidelines . This can be obtained at the Rhode Island Family Court. It is perplexing that, I cannot easily find the most recent guidelines on google . You need to look at the "Rhode Island Monthly Basic support Obligations" (effective October 1, 2002) (Please note that new child support tables should be coming out soon).

Assuming that the parties have two children the child support guidelines indicate that the correct child support amount is $956. assuming there is no daycare* in this hypothetical then the father would be obligated to pay 82.6 percent or $956 per month which would be $789.65 per month or $183 per week.

*(if there is daycare then add the work related child care costs minus the federal tax credit. Please note that the state of Rhode Island uses a rule of thumb of approximately 75 percent to 80 percent of the actual daycare expense)

The Guidelines in theory and in most cases in actuality are the minimum amount a person is required to pay. The judge has discretion to go over the minimum Rhode Island Child Support Guidelines if there is justification under the circumstances.

Some judges in Rhode Island consistently go over the guidelines. The types of circumstances that may justify a judge issuing a child support order above the Rhode Island Child Support guidelines are:

  • Substantial assets
  • standard of living and expenses that far exceed reported gross income
  • extraordinary necessary expenses and needs related for the child

If the parties agree to child support below the Rhode Island child Support Guidelines, in some limited circumstances, it may be allowed. These circumstances could include, visitation exceeding the norm, extraordinary payments of the child expenses or even sometimes just based on the parties agreement.


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