Sunday, December 8, 2013

Downing v. Downing case brief

Downing v. Downing case brief summary
45 S.W.3d 449 (2001)


CASE SYNOPSIS
Appellant challenged an order of the Jefferson Family Court (Kentucky) raising his child support obligation and denying his motion for a reduction in child support, arguing the trial court erred by solely relying on a mathematical extrapolation of the child support guidelines in calculating the appropriate level of child support.

CASE FACTS
The parties were divorced, and pursuant to a property settlement agreement, appellee received sole custody of the two children. Appellant further agreed to pay appellee $ 400 per week in child support. Later, appellee filed a motion to increase appellant's child support obligation based upon a substantial increase in his income, which exceeded the Kentucky Child Support Guidelines. The trial court increased appellant's obligation to $ 3,475 per month and he filed a motion to decrease his child support. The trial court denied his motion and he appealed, arguing the trial court erred by solely relying on a mathematical extrapolation of the child support guidelines in calculating his obligation.

DISCUSSION
  • The court held a trial court could not substitute a mechanical calculation for the exercise of its discretion. 
  • The court reversed in part, holding any decision to set child support above the child support guidelines needed to be based primarily on the child's needs, as set out in specific supporting findings, and not by a mere mathematical computation; therefore, the matter was remanded to determine an appropriate level of child support.
CONCLUSION
Judgment reversed in part, because the trial court gave too much weight to its projection of the child support guidelines. In the absence of sufficient findings regarding other relevant factors, the trial court's method of calculating child support was an abuse of discretion. However, its findings regarding appellant's income were not clearly erroneous.


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