Obtaining Reliable and Repeatable SSAG Calculations

1. Introduction

Obtaining reliable and repeatable calculations under the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines[1] demands a sound understanding of the Advisory Guidelines’ formulas and the data each formula requires. Counsel commonly find themselves addressing spousal support claims with inconsistent Advisory Guidelines calculations even when they agree on the applicable formula. The source of these inconsistencies is usually found in the choice and accuracy of the data entered into the software used to calculate support amounts. Even slight differences in the data used by counsel can generate significant variation in the formula results for quantum and duration.

This paper will review the key data elements of the Advisory Guidelines’ formulas including the calculation of time and age, the length of the parties’ relationship, the age of the recipient of support and the youngest child’s entry into school. It will review the determination of income under the Advisory Guidelines and the tax treatments applicable to different types of income, and canvass the tax deductions, credits and benefits applicable under the Advisory Guidelines.

This paper will also review the various Advisory Guidelines formulas and the circumstances in which each formula applies. Specifically, it will review the without child support formula, the basic with child support formula and the variations that apply when the parties have shared custody or split custody, when all of the children are dependent adults or step-children, and when the children live primarily with the spousal support payor.

1.1 About This Paper

This paper is written for lawyers, mediators and judges who work with spousal support issues on a frequent basis. It assumes that the professional has a working familiarity with the Advisory Guidelines and the calculation of income under the Child Support Guidelines.[2] It will not review the theoretical basis of the Advisory Guidelines or the general law on spousal support.

The Advisory Guidelines formulas only apply when it has been determined or agreed that a party is entitled to receive spousal support.[3] Once the Advisory Guidelines have been applied, the results may, in certain circumstances, be restructured to rebalance quantum against duration and vice versa. Results may be subject to certain exceptions requiring a departure from the Advisory Guidelines formulas altogether.[4] This paper will not discuss the issues arising before and after the application of the formulas.

This paper also assumes that software is available to the professional for the calculation of the Advisory Guidelines formulas, that this software is reasonably accurate and that the professional is familiar with its operation. At least three companies in the private sector have developed software for the Guidelines. This paper is not a guide to the use of the Advisory Guidelines software.[5]

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