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Montana Child Support
Child Support in Montana

In establishing child support orders, Montana's courts enjoy a great deal of latitude. The Administrative Rules of Montana, Title 37, Chapter 62, Subchapter 102 state that "every case must be determined on its own merits and circumstances and the presumption (of the adequacy of the Child Support Guidelines) may be rebutted by evidence that a child's needs are not being met."

The support guidelines are set out in the Montana Administrative Rules, and they are based on the Melson formula The Melson formula allocates to each parent a poverty self-support reserve. The formula then determines the total remaining combined parental income, the noncustodial parent's percentage thereof, and applies the noncustodial parent's percentage to a standard primary support obligation based on the number of children. Finally, after the primary support obligation is subtracted, the formula assesses the noncustodial parent an additional percentage of his or her remaining income.

According to Montana Code Annotated, Section 40, Titles 4-204 and 5-209, either or both parents may be ordered to pay child support, based on a consideration of the following factors:

  • the financial resources of the child;
  • the standard of living the child would have enjoyed if the marriage had not been dissolved;
  • the physical and emotional conditions and educational and medical needs of the child;
  • the financial resources, needs, and obligations of both the noncustodial and the custodial parent;
  • the age of the child;
  • the cost of any daycare;
  • the parenting plan for the child;
  • the needs of any other person that a parent is obligated to support; and
  • the provision of health and medical insurance for the child.

Some of the parents' property may be put in a trust fund for the children.

When health insurance can be obtained at a reasonable cost, the court may order it for the children. The court uses uniform support guidelines of the Department of Public Health and Human Services.

Montana child support is typically calculated by using a Child Support Worksheet. The worksheet generates an appropriate Montana child support obligation according to each spouse's income and other factors such as taxes paid and retirement contributions.

According to ARM 37.62.106, Montana bases child support on actual and imputed income. Actual income means income received from work or investment, but imputed income is a matter of the court's opinion. A brain surgeon who chooses to work in a fast food restaurant may find that for child support purposes his income is calculated based on what he would earn as a doctor.

Montana allows the deduction of some income. ARM 37.62.110 provides that alimony is subtracted from the payor's income and added to the recipient's. Child support to children of another marriage is also deductible. Also deductible is 50 percent of whatever is paid to support the children of a current marriage as well as health insurance premiums for the children, tax liabilities, Social Security and anything else paid to remain employed (such as uniforms or union dues) and child care costs.

However, ARM 37.62.111 denies the right to take certain payroll deductions, such as optional savings plans and the right to deduct net losses from the operation of a business or farm if the losses are used to offset other income.

ARM 37.62.118 provides that after deductions for real and imputed income are established for both mother and father, the income of both parents is totaled to generate the amount of money available for child support. This is the percentage of each parent's income going for child support.

All support payments must be transmitted through the Montana Child Support Enforcement Division. Payments are either withheld or conveyed by special arrangements for the self employed.

Calculate Montana Child Support

Other Expenses and Deductions

Extraordinary expenses are either add-ons, where the expense is added to the support payment, or deductions, where the amount is deducted, and indicated as either mandatory or permissive. Childcare costs and extraordinary medical expenses are mandatory deductions.

Child Support Enforcement

The Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED) of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services seeks financial and medical support for children by enforcing and increasing awareness of parental obligations.

The division provides federally mandated child support enforcement services including locating absent parents, establishing paternity, establishing financial and medical support orders, enforcing current and past-due child support, offering medical and spousal support, and modifying child support orders.

The Montana CSED has six bureaus (Administrative Services, Field Services, Program and Training, Legal Services, Budget, and the Office of the Administrative Law Judge (OALJ)). The central program administration, OALJ, and the Interstate Regional Office are located in Helena, with four regional offices in Butte, Billings, Great Falls, and Missoula.

More information about Montana Child Support Enforcement can be found at their website.


In Montana, child support ends at 18 or 19 if the child is in high school. Noncustodial parents must support a child until he or she turns 18 or legally emancipates himself. Parents must support a child who is 19 and still in high school, and parents must support him until he graduates or turns 20.

Deviation Factors

Once an amount is determined it is essential to take a look at any appropriate Montana child support deviation factors that may be applicable to the situation, which "must take into account the best interests of the child" by showing "that application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate."

Additional information about Montana child support can be found in the Montana state statutes.

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