If you and your spouse are parting ways and share children, child support payments must be determined before the court will issue your divorce judgment. Importantly, each parent has an obligation to support their children financially — regardless of which parent the children live with. While child support may be the most significant expense encountered after a divorce, it is essential to understand its purpose, what it covers, and how it is calculated.
Child support is monetary payment made from one parent to the other as a contribution to the support of the minor children — who receives the child support depends on several factors including each parent’s income and how much time the children spend with each parent. It is generally awarded until the child reaches the age of 18 unless the child is attending college or vocational school at least half time — then child support in Oregon may continue until the child is 21.
Although child support is meant to contribute to the basic costs of raising a child, a parent may also be ordered to pay for college, extracurricular activities, and other costs incurred in the child’s upbringing. Child support contributes to a wide range of expenses related to a child’s needs, including:
A child is entitled to enjoy the same income benefits from their parents that they would have if the divorce had not occurred. It’s vital to be aware that while a child support order contributes to the basic necessities, parents may agree to cover additional expenses in connection with their upbringing. Significantly, health insurance is also considered a form of child support — if neither parent has health care coverage, the court may order cash medical support to be paid.
In Oregon, child support is calculated using the Oregon Child Support Calculator that considers each parent’s income, union dues, alimony or spousal support paid or received, certain disability or VA benefits received, child care costs, health insurance costs, how much time the children spend with each parent, and the number of children that each parent has in total.
Ultimately, Oregon’s public policy requires that parents contribute financially to the care of their children and even if a parent does not have a job, Oregon will assume that a person is capable of earning at least minimum wage unless a person qualifies for disability. The court may consider other factors if they have a significant impact on a parent’s ability to pay support or on a child’s need for support. The Oregon Child Support Calculator is available here.
Child support will be ordered in a divorce case if there are joint children. The order can come from a judge after a hearing or it can come from the parents’ agreement reached outside of court. In either case, the law in Oregon presumes that the figure created by the Oregon Child Support Calculator is the correct amount of child support and it is required that the calculation be included in the judgment. If the child support figure in the judgment differs from that in the Oregon Child Support Calculator, an explanation must be provided.
It’s usually best if parents can reach an agreement regarding child support on their own to help ensure an amicable co-parenting relationship moving forward. Critically, even if parents reach an agreement concerning child support on their own, they must still obtain an order from the court for the agreement to be enforceable.
Sometimes financial circumstances change, and it can become difficult to make the payments ordered at the time of a divorce. In such cases, it may be possible to request a modification from the court. Either parent can bring a child support case to court if there has been a significant increase or decrease in income or other significant change in circumstances.
A modification can be challenging and expensive to obtain in court — but a parent can request that the Child Support Program review an existing support order if there has been a significant change in circumstances or if it has been at least 35 months since the last order was entered. Some examples of significant changes in circumstances include financial hardship caused by job loss or severe illness, if the parenting time arrangement has changed, or the number of children eligible for support involved in the case has changed.
Both parents can consent to a support modification. But if parents cannot agree on the amount, the case may be heard by an administrative law judge who will determine the appropriate amount.
Child support is a major aspect of every divorce case, and it’s crucial to make sure your legal rights are protected. A skilled Oregon divorce and family law attorney can best advise you concerning your specific situation and help achieve the best possible outcome for you and your children. Based in Salem, Litowich Law is committed to providing clients throughout Oregon with compassionate counsel and dedicated representation. We welcome you to contact us to schedule a consultation.