If you’re looking at this page, chances are that you’re either having to pay child support or you’re having to make someone pay. In either case, the law is the same and most cases will be pretty easy to get resolved. Let’s talk about the basics first.
Child support will be ordered in 99% of cases in which one parent has physical custody of the minor child. This is usually true whether the parents share joint “legal” custody or not. The idea is that the primary custodial parent has actual possession of the child more of the time and therefore has a greater financial burden than the noncustodial parent. Thus, the question of whether child support will be paid, and by whom, is really answered by reference to the custody of the child. For more information about child custody in general, you should click here.
Once we determine who will be paying child support, we then have to figure out how much will be paid. Child support calculation is pretty standard. It is mostly determined by a chart that is published by the Arkansas Supreme Court. You may have heard of this – it’s called Administrative Order No. 10; the child support chart. Click here to see Administrative Order No. 10.
Generally, we begin by determining the payor’s gross income for child support purposes (“GICSP”). This gross income amount may be the same as gross income for tax purposes, but it may also be higher (or sometimes lower). Ordinarily, GICSP is just going to be wages, salaries and tips, but it can include income from any source (except SSI). A frequent issue that comes up when calculating GICSP relates to self-employed payor’s who “live out of their business.” In these cases, the payor is an independent contractor or owns a business and has their business pay many of the expenses they would ordinarily have to pay themselves – like cell phones, car payments, insurance payments, and even their mortgage. This allows them to show much less “income” to themselves and therefore their child support calculation will produce a lower child support amount. There are several ways to defend this maneuver or try to defeat it. Click here to visit my page focused on self-employed payor’s. Also click here to learn about discovery in family law cases, which explains how we can get the information we need to calculate GICSP.
After we calculate the payor’s GICSP, we determine the payor’s state and federal income tax amounts, as well as certain payroll tax amounts, and add in any health insurance premiums that are attributable to the children. All of these amounts are subtracted from GICSP. Lastly, we subtract any child support payments that are being paid by the payor for a different child or children (like from a previous marriage). Once all of those subtractions have been completed, what we have is called net income for child support purposes (“NICSP”).
Once we get to NICSP, we simply plug that number into the child support chart. Depending on the pay frequency (biweekly, semimonthly, monthly, etc) and the number of children, the chart will produce an amount of child support called the “presumptive child support obligation.” This will be the payor’s actual child support obligation 99% of the time. However, in some cases, the presumptive child support obligation can be increased or decreased based on the unique circumstances of the case. These increases or decreases are called upward and downward deviations from the presumptive child support obligation, and deviations are examined more closely on this page.
The child support obligations are always set by court order or decree, the parties can usually negotiate on the child support obligation and prepare an “agreed order” which the court will usually sign without any fuss or need for a hearing. (Some judges won’t sign an agreed order if it contains a significant downward deviation that is unjustified.)
Once the child support has been ordered, it will usually be paid either directly to the custodial parent, or paid through the court registry, or paid through the Arkansas Child Support Clearinghouse.
If child support is ordered and not paid, then the custodial parent can usually get a separate judgment against the payor for the amount that went unpaid. Judgments can be handy tools to have, and judgments for child support are superjudgments – they cannot be discharged in bankruptcy and they take priority over most other claims. Click on this page to learn more about child support enforcement and collections.
Sometimes a payor’s child support obligation needs to be changed because he or she had an increase or decrease in GICSP of more than $100 per month (and a few other reasons). Either the payor or the custodial parent can file a motion seeking to modify the payor’s child support obligation and, again, the parties can prepare an agreed order to send to the judge instead of having a hearing. Click here to learn about modification of child support.
Child support can be a sensitive topic for both parties. While payor’s are usually happy to take care of their children, they sometimes hate the idea of paying large sums of money every month to their ex-spouse or ex-partner. Likewise, custodial parents may resent a late-paying or non-paying payor. In the end, sometimes court action is the only option left.
If you have any questions about child support in Arkansas, I am happy to make myself available to visit. I can be reached on my cell phone at 501-519-0186, or at the office at 501-222-7378, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.