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Understanding child support in Hawaii

Hawaii is one of only two states in the country that use the Melson Formula Model in order to calculate each parent's share of child support.

That means that if you aren't accustomed to how child support is determined in Hawaii, it could come as a big surprise because it differs significantly from most of the rest of the country.

Here are some basics that you need to know:

-- The Melson Formula Model starts with the idea that a child in an intact household benefits from the pooled resources of both parents.

-- The idea continues with the presumption that the child should continue to receive roughly the same benefit of that pooled income that he or she would have received if the marriage had remained intact.

-- In many states, no further consideration is given to the parents' basic needs. This is where Hawaii's system diverges and becomes somewhat more complex. Each parent's basic needs are evaluated and the formula used to calculate support takes those basics into consideration.

-- What you consider to be a basic need and what the court considers a basic need can differ sharply. For example, your mortgage and car payment may be far more than what the court considers necessary for your basic needs -- in which case, you aren't going to be able to factor those in to your calculations.

-- The formula used to determine support starts with each parent's gross (pre-tax or other deductions) income.

-- Anything paid toward the child's health care or childcare can be used to reduce a support obligation.

-- Alimony, or spousal support, payments may also be factored into the final support obligation.

-- Even in situation where there is joint physical custody and the child spends 50 percent of his or her time with each parent, one parent is still likely to owe child support to the other unless the incomes are virtually identical. The goal of child support is to make life continue as smoothly as possible for the child, regardless of where he or she is living. That means that the parent with the higher income is almost certain to pay some amount of minimal support to the parent with lower income even when custody is shared.

It's important to remember that each custody and support situation is unique. An attorney experienced in Hawaii child support cases can provide specific advice in your case.

Source: FindLaw, "Child Support Guidelines," accessed June 30, 2017

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