What is child support?
Parents have a legal and moral duty to maintain, protect and educate their children. When parents live apart, the state has an interest in seeing to it that parents, not the public, provide for their children. This obligation continues for as long as the child is a minor. Parents may not waive their obligation to pay child support as a matter of public policy.
Courts have a duty to set child support amounts. Since 1987, Oklahoma has had child support guidelines. The statutory guidelines determine the amount of support that parents at particular income levels are presumed to spend on their children. Child support calculated under the guidelines is presumed by law to be the correct amount of child support.
How do child support guidelines work?
Oklahoma child support guidelines set 4 variables to determine the amount of support.
- The Mother’s gross income
- The Father’s gross income
- The cost of health and dental insurance for the children, and
- The number of overnights the paying parent has with the children (shared parenting).
How is income set?
Gross income can be calculated in several ways, including:
- Actual monthly income or income equivalent to a forty-hour work week (overtime may or may not be included as the court deems equitable)
- Average monthly income while employed during the previous three (3) years
- Minimum wage paid for a forty-hour work week
- Imputed monthly income for a person with comparable education, training and experience, or
- For the self-employed, gross income is defined as “gross receipts minus ordinary and necessary expenses required for self-employment or business operations.”
What about insurance costs?
The actual medical and dental insurance premiums for the children are allocated between the parents in the same proportion as their adjusted gross income and added to the base child support obligation.
What is shared parenting and how does it affect child support?
“Shared parenting” in Oklahoma means that each parent has physical custody of a child overnight for 121 or more nights each year. If the child support obligor exercises 121 or more overnight visits per year, the law presumes the obligor parent is spending more to care for the child. There is a complicated formula that adjusts child support depending on the additional number of overnight visits the obligor parent exercises. The more overnights, the greater the adjustment, and the less the obligor parent has to pay.
“Split custody” means that each parent has primary custody of one or more of the children. In split custody cases, separate computations are made for each parent and the amounts are offset against each other. The parent with the larger child support obligation pays the difference between the two amounts to the parent with the smaller child support obligation.
Can child support be modified?
Yes. The court may modify or change a child support order whenever there is “a material change in circumstances.” Courts have held that a material change of circumstance can be an increase or decrease in the obligor’s income, an increase or decrease in obligee’s income, or a change in the needs of the child. Ordinarily, a parent’s increased or decreased expenses due to, for example, remarriage, are not by themselves grounds to modify child support. Child support is based on income, not expenses.
Child support may not be modified retroactively. Only future payments can be modified. If you think child support should be modified, you should act right away. Sitting on your rights could cost you.
You can calculate Oklahoma child support online (unofficially) using a calculator provided by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services Office of Child Support Services.