Guideline tables for determining child support

To start it is important to state that there does not exist a fixed legal rule in this case.

A matter at the last annual conference for family law Judges and Magistrates came to the conclusion that; “it is considered a very useful tool in the exercise of judicial functions in family proceedings to have a table of guidelines for measuring child support, because it increases the levels of predictability of the court’s decision, increases legal certainty and it helps facilitate agreements and solutions outside of the court, avoiding many costs of the litigation process”.

This system of using tables for measuring child support has been employed for many years in a number of neighbouring countries, such as Canada, Norway, United States and Germany amongst others. Although with some differences between countries the origins and obligations are all fairly accepted, as well as in this country.

Due to this acceptance, we have seen a development of these child support tables with widespread application, although used for guidance purposes. The arguments for this are as follows, namely;

1. In family law there are many legal concepts. As for explaining it we can take the example indicated in article 93 of the Civil Code, “the adoption of payments suitable to the economic circumstances and to the needs of the children from time to time”. This put another way reflects article 146 of the Civil Code, “the amount of the support shall be proportional to the estate or resources of the person who provides it and the needs of the person receiving it”.

The terms used give the Judge a large discretion when it comes to measuring the amount, and can emphasise the following aspects:

– The unpredictability of decisions

– The possibility of different decisions on similar matters

– An increase in contentious litigation

2. To facilitate the possibility of agreements at any stage of the judicial process, even in the preliminary stages (e.g. a divorce settlement)

A working group of family Judges and the CGPJ (the body which oversees the legal profession in Spain) have come to the conclusion that the commissioned work of these tables, in which the current work was based, are also mechanisms of updating and broadcasting.

These tables are intended to achieve the following objectives, namely;

1. To provide Spanish society with a stable statistical foundation

2. To update the tables as changes occur in the family unit at a minimum of every 5 years.

3. To improve the calculation on a computer. For this there exists a calculation app for child support on the website of CGPJ (www.cgpj.com).

4. To inform about the use of the tables

5. To spread the news of the existence of the tables

6. To make a computer program available to the Judges and Magistrates to aid the interpretation of judgments they have to deliver.

The procedures to apply these tables are as follows:

– Households with a child dependent on a couple of median household income are ordered from highest to lowest, considering the income data from the Survey of Living Conditions (SLC years 2006-2010). Once ordered, the households are divided into 10 groups, each on with the same number of households, 10% of the total. The median of household income in each group is then calculated and the data is discarded from the first and last group, those with the lowest and highest income.

Considering whether a child is economically dependent:

– all those under the age of 16 if at least one parent is a member of the household

– those between the ages 16 to 25 and are economically inactive, again if at least one parent is a member of the household.

That is to say, a dependent child is defined as one that needs financial support for reasons of age and for work.

– Similarly, households with a child dependent on a couple under the income from the Household Budget Survey (HBS years 2006-2010) are ordered and divided into 10 groups and the average expenditure per household is calculated, with the data from the first and last group discarded. In this calculation the average household spending is considered as monetary spending only, without taking into account the mortgage or rent expenses of the principal dwelling. Therefore in applying tables you have to take into account the net income without deducting the mortgage, and that the cost obtained does not provide for the smaller expenses of the household. If you do have a mortgage or rent this should be added to correspond to the estimated cost under this process. Also eliminated is the cost of education, school transport, school meals and accommodation for educational reasons. This is left to the Judge to determine the value of education costs in each particular case. Costs are to be increased appropriately when establishing the amount of child support.

– Adjusting the lineal decline of the ratio of income/expenses allows us to calculate the level of income for a given household (in this case the combined income of both parents), and the percentage of household income that is spent, from which both of these is derived the estimated expenditure of the household.

– It assigns expenditure amongst household members according to the modified scale of the OCDE : 1 adult is equivalent to one unit of consumption, 2 adults are 1.5 units, 2 adults and 1 dependent child are equivalent to 1.8 units of consumption. Therefore the percentage of a child’s expenditure is relative to the total household expenditure (0.3/1.8), which is approximately 16.7% of the total household expenditure of the dependent child.

The cost of maintaining 2 dependent children is worked out using calculations based on households consisting of a couple with 2 dependent children:

– Household spending is worked out as (0.6/2.1) which equals 28.6%, approximately 29% of the total household expenditure of the 2 dependent children.

According to this method, the cost of caring for 2 children is almost double that of 1 child (in the end, after using this method, the first and second child are equally balanced, at 0.3 each).

For the cost of maintaining 3 children, the same calculations are made but based on households consisting of a couple with 3 dependent children:

– Household spending is calculated as (0.9/2.4), equalling 35.5%.

For the cost of keeping more than 3 children, n, it is worked out based on households consisting of a couple with 3 dependent children.

– Household spending is calculated as (0.3*n/ (1.5 + n*0.3)).

In summary, the amount that judges are applying in practice is, as a guide, 30% of the net income of the noncustodial parent.