What Is a Visitation Credit And How Do I Get It?

On behalf of The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C. posted in Divorce on Friday, June 7, 2013

In our last post we discussed the “infamous” Siegenthaler schedule and the evolution of today’s schedule of physical custody. In this post we want to discuss a closely related issue – the impact that more overnights per year for the party paying child support may reduce that party’s support amount.

As originally conceived, the Form 14, realizing that some parents, particularly those with joint physical custody awards, would have more overnights in a year than others, so it provided trial courts flexibility to reward that increase – or even encourage it – by providing a credit of a 10% reduction in monthly child support without having to depart from the presumed amount and find the award inappropriate. That amount later increased to 15%.

Recently, the General Assembly amended that part of the law relating to visitation credits, allowing a trial court to credit up to 50% of the presumed support amount based on the number of overnights awarded to the parent paying support. In theory, a pure 50-50 custody schedule could result in a trial court reducing by half the presumed support of the parent paying support. The logic behind the change in the law should be obvious – a parent that has equal or almost equal periods of custody bears a greater burden of daily child-related expenses, expenses not born by the parent receiving support, and so fairness would dictate reducing the amount owed in support. The trial court retains significant discretion in awarding this credit, presumably for those cases where the disparity in income between the parties and the financial needs of the child require a greater share of the presumed child support amount.

The trial courts have just begun to take these new credit amounts into consideration. A party who successfully obtains a joint physical custody award of relatively equal physical custody time should have an attorney advocate for vigorous use of the visitation credit to equalize the presumed child support amount. Given the newness of this credit to the process, educating the trial court on the financial impact will be critical, whether representing the parent paying support or receiving support. You will want an attorney with the knowledge of the financial implication and the skill to present them in a clear manner to the court.

If you have questions about the visitation credit on Form 14, contact us – we can help.