Utah Child Support Laws and FAQs

An in-depth overview of Utah child support laws with answers to FAQs such as how to calculate and modify support awards.

Utah Child Support

Who Must Pay Child Support in Utah?

Both parents are required to provide for their children in Utah.  As part of a child custody arrangement for unmarried or divorcing parents, a court may order the non-custodial parent to pay a set monthly sum of money to the custodial parent to cover expenses relating to the care of a minor child or incapacitated adult child.

How is Child Support Determined in Utah?

Child support can be arranged out of court by a mutual support agreement between the parents or can be decided in Utah family court through a child support order.  Utah uses Child Support Guidelines to arrive at a just and fair amount for each case.

Parents can agree to pay more than the amount given by the guidelines, but not less, and a court must approve the amount.

The Online Court Assistance Program (OCAP) can also help you calculate your estimated child support obligation if you’re not working with an attorney.

Utah uses the Income Share model.  This involves the court using economic tables to estimate the monthly cost of raising the children. The non-custodial parent pays a percentage of the calculated cost based on their proportional share of both parents’ combined income.

After the court has determined the parent’s incomes, it uses them to calculate a base combined child support obligation based on a combined child support obligation table.

Child support also varies based on the number of children and the type of physical custody of the case.  In cases where one of the parents is awarded primary physical custody, the child support paid by the non-custodial parent will be greater than in cases where parents have a shared or joint custody arrangement.

The state uses a child support calculator to determine a final amount, plugging in income, the number of children, and the type of custody.

The calculator only works to a maximum combined income is $10,000 per month.  If combined income exceeds the guideline amount, it is left to the court’s discretion to determine the child support.

Also, if the court finds sufficient evidence to rebut the guidelines, support will be established after considering relevant factors, including:

  • the standard of living and situation of the parties
  • the relative wealth and income of the parties
  • the ability of the obligor to earn
  • the ability of the obligee to earn
  • the ability of an incapacitated adult child to earn or other benefits received by the adult child or on the adult child’s behalf, including Supplemental Security Income
  • the needs of the obligee, the obligor, and the child
  • the ages of the parties
  • the responsibilities of the obligor and the obligee for the support of others.

When Does Child Support End in Utah?

A parent’s duty to pay child support ends when the child turns 18 or graduates from high school during the child’s normal and expected year of graduation, whichever occurs later.

The duty to pay ends if the child dies, marries, joins the armed forces, or is emancipated under Utah law.

Utah state law does allow courts to order the non-custodial parent to contribute to their child’s college education upon graduating high school.  Post-secondary education support and the amount are decided on a case-by-case basis.

Factors That May Impact Child Support in Utah

Courts must consider several potential variables that could create a deviation from a base child support amount.

For example, with an existing order, going to jail does not automatically end the support until the court modifies it. If the jailed parent has income or assets, they may be used to pay child support.

Also, if a parent is unemployed or underemployed, the court may impute an income on the parent to perform the child support calculations.  Imputed income is calculated based on employment potential and probable earnings using employment opportunities, work history, occupation qualifications, and prevailing earnings for people of similar backgrounds in the community.

If a parent doesn’t have a recent work history or if their occupation is unknown, then the court can impute income on the parent at the federal minimum wage for a 40-hour work week.

However, income can’t be imputed if a parent is physically or mentally unable to earn the minimum wage or a child’s unusual emotional or physical needs require the custodial parent to stay home and care for them.

Late payment interest can be added to the amount due when payments are overdue. A child support payment is considered late when it doesn’t get paid by the arranged deadline, but when payment is truly considered “late,” it can vary based on the court. Some orders allow for grace periods.

How can custody arrangements affect Utah child support?

The Utah child support guidelines adjust the amount of child support to account for the parent’s child custody arrangement. For calculation purposes, what matters is how many overnights the child spends in each parent’s home.

The guidelines accommodate the following situations:

  • Joint physical custody. This is when a child spends more than 110 nights a year in each parent’s home.
  • Sole physical custody. This is when a child spends over 225 nights a year in one parent’s home.
  • Split custody. This is when there are multiple children, and some live with one parent, and some live with the other parent.

The Office of Recovery Services’ Child Support Calculator will run the numbers for you without delving into the exact formulas.

To deviate from the guidelines, the court must consider all relevant factors, such as:

  • parents’ standard of living and situation
  • parents’ relative wealth and income
  • the ability of the paying and the receiving parent to earn
  • the ability of an incapacitated adult child to earn (or the benefits received by the adult child, such as Supplemental Security Income)
  • needs of both parents and the child
  • parents’ ages
  • whether either parent supports others.

How is extended visitation handled?

Per Utah Code Section 78-12-216, the non-custodial parent is entitled to a 50% reduction when they have the children for any 25 days of any 30 consecutive day period.  A 25% reduction applies when they have the children for any 12 days of any 30 consecutive day period.  Normal parent-time and holiday visits to the custodial parent shall not be considered extended parent-time.

What if the noncustodial parent lives in another state?

Each state program operates independently from the others, but each state has to follow federal rules about handling a child support case.  When a noncustodial parent lives in another state, ORS can send an income-withholding order directly to the parent’s employer in the other state, or it can ask the child support program in that state to collect.

Can ORS send payments to a third party?

Federal law requires ORS to send payments directly to the custodial party on the child support case.

Is Health Insurance Considered a Part of Child Support?

Every divorce decree in Utah must include an order assigning responsibility for the payment of reasonable and necessary medical and dental expenses.  This includes responsibility for health insurance out-of-pocket expenses such as co-payments, co-insurance, and deductibles.  The parents will share the insurance cost equally unless the court orders otherwise.

If coverage is available at a reasonable cost or when it becomes available at a reasonable cost, parents must provide a designation of which health, hospital, or dental insurance plan is primary and which health, hospital, or dental insurance plan is secondary.  Parents must also inform the court when coverage will take effect.

Parents will share equally the cost of other medical care. When a parent incurs medical expenses that aren’t covered by insurance (illnesses, surgeries, braces, etc.), they must submit written verification of the cost of the care to the other parent within 30 days of payment.

How does Utah treat child care costs?

Utah has specialized guidelines that consider child care costs separately from the general costs of raising a child to calculate child support payments.

Child care costs are treated as a mandatory deduction.  Suppose the custodial parent pays for child care, and the non-custodial parent must pay their share in addition to basic child support. In that case, the portion of the monthly child care costs attributed to the custodial partner is deducted from the noncustodial partner’s monthly child support payment.

How Do I Ask for Child Support?

There are several ways to apply for child support services in Utah.

You can apply online using the ORS electronic form. You will be given an application number to track your case going forward. ORS will start processing the application as soon as it’s received.

You can also apply by mail or in person, using a paper form.  Print the paper application, or you can contact an ORS office to have an application mailed to you.

In both cases, you will need to submit copies (do not send originals) of documents and the application.

  • Each child’s birth certificate, if the child was not born in Utah.
  • Any documents that establish paternity for the child on the case.
  • An existing child support order or orders, if you already have one. Include copies of any changes as well.
  • A divorce decree if you were married.
  • A death certificate or obituary if either parent is dead

Courts often issue a child support order at the same time they issue the divorce decree. So, if you’re going through a divorce, you won’t have to apply separately for child support because it will be decided as part of the divorce.

When the parents aren’t married, they must apply for a child support order through ORS.  The parent seeking the order must submit:

  • a completed child support worksheet
  • a financial verification
  • a written statement indicating whether the amount of child support requested is consistent with the state’s guidelines, and
  • certain identifying information, such as a driver’s license number and employment information
  • a child’s birth certificate or documents establishing paternity for the child to be supported.

The amount of time between opening a case and receiving a payment varies. ORS will open a case record within 20 days of receiving an application. The next actions include seeking to collect payments. This is easier when the paying parent’s location is known.

Establishing Paternity in Utah

Establishing paternity means deciding who a child’s legal father is.  In Utah, parents who are married when a child is born establish paternity automatically.

Unmarried parents can acknowledge the paternity of a child by signing the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity by Parents. This is a legally binding form from the Utah Department of Health, Office of Vital Records and Statistics. Parents who were not married when the child was born can also establish paternity through an ORS administrative process or Utah courts.

For more information about paternity, visit the FAQ page or contact ORS directly.

Enforcing Utah Child Support Orders

There are two primary ways to enforce child support orders in Utah.

Parents can use services provided by the Office of Recovery Services (ORS) or through the courts.  State and federal laws give ORS the power to enforce child support orders, and the Utah Child Support Act gives ORS the authority to enforce the right of support on behalf of the custodial party against the noncustodial parent.

Child support must be paid through a withholding order administrated through the Utah Office of Recovery Services (ORS).  Mandatory income or wage withholding may be waived when the payor is self-employed, or the parties mutually agree to waive it.

ORS can also enforce orders through

  • Intercepting a tax return or stimulus payment
  • Applying lien and levies to bank accounts
  • Seizing personal property
  • Filing a civil contempt case in court
  • Filing criminal charges against someone with the means to pay but who refuses

ORS will not automatically close your case if you contract with a private agency or attorney and work through the courts. But you will be required to tell ORS the name and address of the private agent and keep ORS informed of actions taken on your behalf.

Read More:  How Retirement Accounts and Pensions are Divided in a Divorce

Modifying Child Support in Utah

Utah law allows parents to request a modification of an existing child support order when there has been a “substantial change in circumstances” or when it has been three or more years since the order was entered.

The Utah courts’ Modifying Child Support website contains detailed information and forms for requesting a child support modification.

Before you head to court, contact the ORS.  Although a court must approve a modification, ORS might be able to help with the process by petitioning the court on your behalf.

Under Utah law, a substantial change in circumstances might include material changes to:

  • custody
  • the relative wealth or assets of the parents
  • a parent’s income (must be at least a 30% increase or decrease)
  • the employment potential and ability of a parent to earn
  • the medical needs of the child
  • the legal responsibilities of either parent for the support of others.

If the court agrees that there has been a substantial change in circumstances, the court will:

  • Take into account the child’s best interest.
  • Determine whether the substantial change in circumstances is not temporary and results in a difference of 15% or more between the payor’s ordered support amount and the new, proposed amount

When it’s been more than three years since the order has been issued or modified, you or ORS must make a motion in the court that has jurisdiction over your child support order.

When the court receives the motion, it will determine whether there’s a difference between the amount in the current order and the amount required under the current guidelines. If there’s a difference, the court will take into account the child’s best interests and modify the order if the:

  • the difference is more than a 10% increase or decrease
  • the difference is not temporary
  • the new amount won’t deviate from the guidelines.

Child Support and Taxes

Child support payments are not deductible by the payer or taxable to the recipient. Don’t include child support payments received when you calculate your gross income.

However, you may be able to claim the child as a dependent. Generally, the custodial parent is treated as one who provides more than half of the child’s support. In some cases, the noncustodial parent may be treated as the parent who provided more than half of the child’s support.

Many agreements include a provision that each parent declares half the children as dependents when there is an even number of children. The parents can alternate years claiming a child for an odd number of children. In this situation, parents may need to submit Form 8332, Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent, or a similar statement.

Which Agency Handles Child Support in Utah?

The Utah Department of Human Services Office of Recovery Services (ORS) offers child support services to Utah residents. ORS can help establish paternity, locate an absent parent, establish child support, modify child support and enforce child support orders.

If you have questions about child support issues, call ORS at 801-536-8500. You can also email the agency at orswebcss@utah.gov.

Payments are made through the Utah DHHS Child Support department of the Office of Recovery Services. Payments can be made by check, credit card, or direct deposit, either in person, by mail, over the phone, or online.

Payment Address:
Office of Recovery Services
PO Box 45011
Salt Lake City, UT 84145-0011

ORS does not provide legal representation to either parent. We also cannot give parents or caretakers legal advice.  Also, custody and visitation are not decided or enforced by ORS.

ORS Now is an online portal that lets you access your child support case details 24/7.  You can start a case, get case information or make a payment online.

If you have payment questions, go to OAR’s frequently asked questions or contact OAR directly.

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