April 22, 2008
To: Workgroup members
From: Bob Shirley
RE: Presumptive Minimum Orders
One of the 14 topics in the workgroup legislation is “whether the amount of the
presumptive minimum order should be adjusted.” The pages that follow provide basic
Federal and state law related to presumptive minimum orders in Washington
The relationship of the minimum wage, need standard, and presumptive orders
Presumptive amounts in other jurisdictions
At the end of the memo is an addendum with information about presumptive minimum
orders for 50 sates and the District of Columbia.
Please contact me if you have questions.
The legislature has asked the workgroup to consider whether the amount of the
presumptive minimum order should be adjusted.1
Federal rules for state child support programs operated with federal funds require states
to “establish one set of guidelines…for setting and modifying child support award
amounts.”2 States must “provide that there shall be a rebuttable presumption…that the
award which would result from the application of the guidelines…is the correct amount
of child support to be awarded.”3
In Washington, when combined monthly net income is less than $600, courts and the
Division of Child Support (DCS) are required to establish “a support order of not less
than twenty-five dollars per child per month…unless the obligor parent establishes that it
would be unjust or inappropriate to do so” in a particular case.4
The $25 minimum per-child support payment is required of a parent even if payment of
that amount of support would reduce the parent’s net income below the “need standard”5
for one person. The need standard is an amount of money established by the Department
of Social and Health Services (DSHS) that represents reasonable allowances for shelter,
fuel, food, transportation, clothing, household maintenance and operations, personal
maintenance, and necessary incidentals.6
The need standard, the child support economic table, and minimum wage
The interrelationship between the need standard, the child support economic table, and
minimum wage earnings (actual or imputed) lead to variations in order amounts that are
substantial for very low-income obligors. In recent years, the level of the need standard
has resulted in child support obligations of $25 per month (the presumptive minimum)
for an obligor earning full-time minimum wage, and in other years an obligor earning
minimum wage faced a child support obligation of as much as $154. See Table 1 below.
For example, two obligors that earned the minimum wage and whose child support orders
were established 13 months apart (December 2004 and January 2006) have orders that
are $115 different from one another ($25 in 2004 and $140 in 2006). In this example, if
those orders have not been modified, one obligee is providing for a child with $115 less
per month than the other obligee. Put another way, one obligee is receiving almost six
times more basic child support than the other obligee. The disparity would be considered
by many to be inequitable to families and to obligors.
Chapter 313, Laws of 2007 (Second Substitute House Bill 1009 § 7(4)(j)).
45 CFR § 302.56(a).
Id. subsection (f).
See RCW26.19.065 and 020.
See RCW 74.04.770 and WAC 388-478-0015.
Table of Annual Minimum Wage and Support Obligation7
Year Hourly Minimum Support Obligation
Wage for Parent Earning
2003 $7.01 $97.00
2004 $7.16 $25
2005 $7.35 $68
2006 $7.63 $140
2007 $7.93 $154
Chart 1 shows the effect of the need standard is to reduce the transfer payment in
comparison to the amount in the economic table for one child under age 12 when the
custodial parent (CP) has no income and the noncustodial (NCP) parent has a net income
between $600 and $1,300.8 The transfer payment is $25, the presumptive minimum,
when the NCP’s monthly net income is between $600 and $1,000, and then the transfer
payment increases until it equals the amount in the economic table for one child under
age twelve (column A) when the combined monthly net income equals $1,400.
Comparison of BSO to Transfer Payment When Child Is Under 12 and CP
Income Equals Zero
Transfer Payment $
600 700 800 900 1000 1100 1200 1300 1400 1500 1600 1700
Combined Monthly Net Income
Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia have minimum presumptive amounts in
their guidelines. Some states have a presumptive minimum per child; others have a
presumptive minimum per order.
Information in the table was supplied by Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (WAPA).
The data in the Chart 1was produced by SSGen (version 2007.01.01) in the non-public SEMS program.
Table of State Presumptive Minimums by Categories9
No presumptive AL; AZ; AR; FL; IL; IN; KS; ME; MD; MS; MO; NM;
amount: 21 states ND; OH; OK; OR; PA; SD; TX; VT; WI
Presumptive amount in AK; CO; DC; GA; HI; ID; IA; KY; LA; MA; MI; MN;
dollars: 25 states & DC NE10; NV; NH; NJ; NY; NC; RI; SC; TN; UT; VA; WA;
Presumptive amount in CT
Presumptive amount CA; DE; MT
based on formula
Chart 2 below shows the distribution of state presumptive minimums for orders that
affect only one child. Because some states use a per-child minimum and other states use a
per-order minimum, orders affecting two or more children may reflect even greater
variability than is shown in Chart 2.
Presumptive Minimum Support Order Amounts for One Child for 26 Jurisdictions11
Presumptive Min. Support Order in $/Mo.
Number of Jurisdictions
2 $20 $30 $60 $65 $75 $80
Dollars per Month
Data for the chart was collected in 2007 by WA Division of Child Support and published at
Nebraska presumptive minimum is sometimes calculated as a percentage; Nebraska is included in chart
as one of 26 states with a presumptive minimum ($50).
Data for the chart was collected in 2007 by WA Division of Child Support information and published at
The level of the presumptive minimum amount is a concern for both obligees and
obligors. Obligees support custodial children with the presumptive amount. When the
obligee is low-income, the difference between $25 per child and $100 per child (the
highest presumptive amount used by any state12) is substantial.
For the low-income obligor who will pay only the minimum presumptive amount, the
difference between $25 and $100 is also substantial. In the event an obligor has income
of $1,000, a $25 order represents two and a half percent of the obligor’s income, but a
$100 order represents 10 percent of the obligor’s income. In the case of an obligor with
three children and a net income of $1,000 per month, a $75 payment represents seven and
a half percent of the obligor’s income, but a $300 payment represents 30 percent of the
The 2005 workgroup report addressed the presumptive minimum obligation on page 28;
the workgroup reported it was unable to address the issue and produce a
recommendation.13 In 2005, a majority of states had a presumptive minimum amount in
their guidelines and Washington was part of the majority. Washington continues in the
Should a parent with an extremely low income be exempted from child support? There is
a reasonable argument that non-custodial parents with extremely low incomes should not
be ordered to pay any amount because an order for even $25 per month may prevent
those parents from meeting their own basic needs.
However, one reason to establish even a minimum order is because existence of an order
assists in maintaining current information about the obligor (whose income may increase
over time). Another reason for establishing a monthly support obligation is to impress on
the parent that it is important to support children financially.
Should the presumptive minimum amount in Washington of $25 per child be adjusted?
This is the question posed by the legislature for the workgroup. The $25 amount has been
the presumptive minimum since 1991 and in that time the value of $25 has been reduced
by one-third ($25 today would purchase the equivalent amount of goods as did $16 in
199114). As Chart 2 shows, Washington has a lower presumptive amount for one child
than 22 of the 26 jurisdictions with a stated presumptive minimum.
The level of a state’s presumptive minimum is a classic legislative decision because there
is no objective standard against which to measure the correctness of the amount chosen.
Nevada’s presumptive minimum is $100 per child, per month.
“Recommendations to the Washington State Legislature for Washington’s Child Support Guidelines”
Department of Social and Heath Services, Division of Child Support, January 2006.
Calculation made using the on-line inflation calculator maintained by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
found at http://18.104.22.168/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl
This is demonstrated by the information in Chart 2 that shows 26 jurisdictions set their
presumptive minimum between $20 and $100 for one child.
Should the presumptive minimum amount in Washington be established by formula so
that it will change in relation to a factor (e.g., change in relation to inflation and
deflation; change in relation to the minimum wage; change in relation to the federal
poverty level)? Use of a formula to index the minimum presumptive amount could result
in the presumptive minimum providing a consistent level of purchasing power as the
value of a dollar changes. Use of a formula could also reduce or eliminate the necessity to
revisit this topic in the quadrennial reviews of child support guidelines.15
Use of a formula to index the minimum presumptive amount could, however, have a
negative effect if the formula is imprecise and over time leads to over- or under-
compensation in relation to the factor used to construct the index. If a problem of this
nature were to develop, however, the problem could be addressed in a quadrennial
See RCW 26.19.025.
Presumptive Minimum by Jurisdiction16
Alabama Rule 32(A)(Comment): For combined gross incomes below $550, the amount
of child support is discretionary. There is no dollar amount prescribed by the rule.
Alaska Civil Rule 90.3(Commentary)(VI)(C): $50/family/mo.
Arizona Arizona Child Support Guidelines as per Arizona Revised Statutes 25-320(15):
There is no prescribed presumptive minimum amount. It is discretionary.
Arkansas Administrative Order Number 10: No presumptive minimum is listed.
California Family Code Section 4055(b)(7): Rather than a presumptive minimum
amount, there is a low-income adjustment when the net disposable income of the obligor
is less than $100/mo. The maximum low income adjustment allowable is calculated by
multiplying the child support amount as otherwise determined by the following fraction:
($1000 - obligor's net disposable income/mo)/$1000.
Colorado Section 14-10-115 C.R.S.: $50/mo (which does not apply when an adjustment
for residential time is given).
Connecticut CGS Section 46b-215a-4a(c): 10% of net income for one child, and
gradually increasing amounts for additional children, up to about the poverty level.
However, if the obligor's net income is less than $50/wk, then there is no obligation.
Delaware To be incorporated into a Family Court Rule: "No person shall be assessed a
support obligation of less than 20% of the primary support allowance for the number of
children for whom support is sought except: (a) This limitation shall not apply where
children reside in shared (at least 175 overnights in each household) or split (at least one
child of the union with primary residence in each household) placement, or (b) A
disabled person with actual income of less than the self-support allowance may be
assessed a lesser obligation upon consideration of the nature and extent of the disability,
cash and other resources available, and the totality of the circumstances." (Section V:
2006 Summary of the Delaware Child Support Formula Evaluation and Update
District of Columbia Child Support Guideline Revision Act of 2006 (g)(3): $50/mo.
This material copied form the Child Support Schedule Workgroup website:
Florida F.S. 61.30: There is no presumptive minimum listed.
Georgia O.C.G.A. Section 19-6-15(i)(2)(B)(ii): If the calculated child support award
would be less than $75, then the minimum child support order amount shall be $75.
Hawaii Family Court Child Support Guidelines: $50/child/month
Idaho I.R.C.P. Rule 6(c)6 Section 4(d): $50/child/month.
Illinois 750 ILCS 5/505: There is no presumptive minimum listed.
Indiana Indiana Rules of Court Child Support Rules: There is no presumptive minimum
Iowa Child Support Guidelines pursuant to I.C. Section 598.21: The presumptive
minimum is $50 for one child/month, $75 for 2 children/month, $100 for 3
children/month, or $125 for 4 or more children.
Kansas Kansas Child Support Guidelines: There is no presumptive minimum listed.
Kentucky K.R.S. Section 403.212(4): $60/mo
Louisiana R.S. 9:315.14: Except in cases involving shared or split custody, the court
shall not set an award of child support less than $100.
Maine M.R.S.A. title 19-A Sections 2001-2011: No presumptive minimum is listed.
Maryland Maryland Family Law Code Ann. Section 12-204: It is unclear whether or not
a presumptive minimum exists (see table in (e)).
Massachusetts Trial Child Support Guidelines (II)(C): Presumptive minimum of $80 per
Michigan Child Support Formula Manual 1.08: "Support should not be recommended in
amounts of less than $25 per month (plus that parent's share heath care and child care),
unless the court deviates from the formula."
Minnesota M.S.A Section 518A.42 Subd. 2: The presumptive minimum for 1-2 children
is $50/month, for 3-4 children is $75 per month, and for 5-6 children is $100 per month.
Mississippi Miss. Code Section 43-19-101-103: No presumptive minimum is listed.
Missouri Civil Procedure Form 14: No presumptive minimum is listed.
Montana ARM 37.62.126: A calculation exists for the presumptive minimum, and it is
dependent upon the income of the NCP. Detailed instructions for the calculation are
found in Rule 13 of the Montana Child Support Guidelines.
Nebraska Child Support Guidelines(I): Minimum support is $50/mo or 10% of the
obligor's net income, whichever is greater.
Nevada NRS 125B.080: The presumptive minimum is $100/mo/ch unless the court
makes a finding of fact that the obligor is unable to pay the minimum amount.
New Hampshire N.H. Rev. Stat. Section 458-C:2: $50/mo unless the court determines a
lesser amount is appropriate under the particular circumstances.
New Jersey New Jersey Rules of Court Appendix IX A (20): $5/wk.
New Mexico N.M. Stat. Sections 40-4-11.1: There is no presumptive minimum listed.
New York N.Y. Dom. Rel. Law Section 240(1-b)(7)(d): When the annual amount of the
BSO would reduce the NCP's income below the federal poverty income guidelines
amount for a single person, the BSO is $25/mo or the difference between the NCP's and
the self-support reserve, whichever is greater. When the annual amount of the BSO
would reduce the NCP's income below the self-support reserve but not below the federal
poverty income guidelines amount for a single person, the [minimum order] is $50/mo or
the difference between the NCP's income and the self support reserve, whichever is
North Carolina North Carolina Child Support Guidelines: $50/mo.
North Dakota NDCC 75-02-04.1-04: There is no presumed minimum. However, the
statute says that "a support obligation should be established in each case where the
obligor has any income."
Ohio Ohio Rev. Code Section 3119.01 et seq: There is no presumptive minimum listed.
Oklahoma There is no presumed minimum listed in Okla. Stat. Tit. 43 Section 118.
Oregon OAR Division 50 Rule 137-050: There is no presumptive minimum dollar
amount prescribed by the OARs.
Pennsylvania Pa. R. Civ. Pro 1910.16: There is no presumptive dollar amount prescribed
by the rules.
Rhode Island Administrative Order 2002-03: $50/mo.
South Carolina Southern Carolina Soc. Serv. Reg. 114-4710(A)(2): $100/mo.
South Dakota South Dakota Cod. Laws Section 25-7: There is no presumptive minimum
dollar amount prescribed under these laws.
Tennessee Rule 1240-2-4-.03(6)(a)(4): $100/mo.
Texas Texas Family Code Chapter 154: There is no presumptive minimum listed
anywhere in the code.
Utah Utah Code Section 78-45-7.7(6): $30/mo.
Vermont Vt.Stat.title 15, Section 656(b): While the statute refers to a "nominal support
amount," it does not assign a presumptive minimum dollar amount to this level of support
Virginia Va. Code Section 20-108.2(B): $65/mo.
West Virginia WVC 48-13-302: $50/mo or a discretionary amount set by the court based
on the resources and living expenses of the parents and the number of children.
Wisconsin Administrative Rule DWD 40.04(4): According to this statute, the minimum
amount that may be ordered is discretionary based upon the payer's total economic
Wyoming Wyo. Stat. Section 20-2-303(b): $50/mo for each family unit.