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Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 20-2-307(b)(ii), (ix) (2015) provides that, while the district court must give serious consideration to the child support guidelines, it can and should deviate from them when it is just and appropriate to do so. The district court has discretion to deviate from the presumptive amount on a case-by-case basis. District courts must exercise their discretion to set a fair amount of child support in light of all the circumstances.
The parties, who never married, are the parents of two minor children born in 2006 and 2008. Father and Mother remained together for a period of time after both children were born, but eventually separated in 2009. As a result, Father filed a petition to establish custody and visitation. The parties came to an agreement and filed a stipulated order establishing custody and visitation, which was entered by the district court later that year. The stipulated order provided that they had joint legal custody and shared physical custody. The Father’s child support obligation was briefly suspended when the parties reconciled in 2010. However, in 2012, the parties separated permanently, and the district court entered a stipulated order for modification of child support which required Father to pay child support of $182.00 per month, half of the children's day care costs and half of their school expenses. In 2014, the Father filed a petition to modify custody, support and visitation. The district court found that the existing custody arrangement was in fact not shared as the previous stipulated orders mistakenly indicated, and that Mother did indeed have primary custody based upon the number of nights that the parties had the children overnight per year. Based upon the evidence concerning the parties' earnings and the fact that Mother had primary custody, the district court determined that the Father's presumptive child support obligation to Mother would be $1,040.26 per month. However, the court found that a downward deviation was warranted under Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 20-2-307(b), and it reduced Father's child support obligation from the presumptive amount to $600.00 per month. The Mother appealed.
Did the district court abuse its discretion when it deviated downward from Father's presumptive child support obligation?
The Court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by ordering the father to pay less than the statutory presumptive amount under Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 20-2-307(b) (2015) because he had incurred the cost of necessary child day care. Moreover, the Court noted that the father had the children for a substantial period of time, and the father paid his share of the children's uncovered medical expenses. According to the Court, the district court was not precluded from deviating downward due to the fact that the mother received Title XIX Medicaid means-tested benefits. The Court concluded that the construction was harmonious with Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 20-2-303(a)(ii) and the other child support statutes.