Criminal Defense and Family Law Attorneys
Issues related to child support are among the most common faced by the domestic relations courts in Arkansas. Child support has been established by the Legislature in Arkansas, and has been calculated through formulas established by the Supreme Court of Arkansas.
On July 1, 2020, the Arkansas Supreme Court promulgated new child support calculation guidelines. These guidelines take both parties' gross income amounts into consideration. These amounts are added together, and then acceptable deductions like alimony payments (in the same court case) and/or other child support payments are taken. From that total, the Arkansas Family Support Chart gives us a “Basic Child Support Obligation” for the parties.
Once we know the Basic Child Support Obligation, each party is assigned a percentage of that obligation which is equal to their percentage of the total income. For example, and if Parent 1 makes $7,500 in gross income per month and Parent 2 makes $2,500 in gross income per month, their total income would be $10,000 per month. Of this total, Parent 1 makes 75% and Parent 2 makes 25%.
If they have two children and no other deductions, their Basic Child Support Obligation would be $1,501 per month. Because Parent 1 makes 75% of the parties' total income, she or he would be responsible for 75% of the Basic Child Support Obligation, or $1,126 (75% of $1,501). Parent 2 would therefore be responsible for 25%, or $375.
Expenses like health insurance, work-related childcare and extraordinary medical expenses (such as orthodontia) may also be shared by the parties in the same percentages as above, with the parent who is actually paying the expense getting credit against any child support obligation she or he may have. For example, if Parent 1 also pays $200 per month for health insurance for the children, she or he would be responsible for $150 of that amount (75% of $200), while Parent 2 would be responsible for $50. These amounts would be added to their respective total obligations. Since Parent 1 is paying the full $200, she or he would get a $200 credit against that obligation.
Then, after all deductions and expenses are taken, the non-custodial parent would pay child support to the custodial parent in the amount of his or her calculated obligation.
In mid-2021, the Arkansas Legislature revised the statute used by the courts to determine child custody, making joint custody the presumed starting point for all custody cases. In doing so, however, no instructions were given to the courts with respect to child support. While we wait for a more specific plan from either the Arkansas Legislature or the Arkansas Supreme Court, child support in joint custody cases will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
For parents who are self-employed or who work on commission, child support calculations are more involved, but we can certainly assist with that.
Arkansas law requires that child support payments be made by payroll deduction through the Child Support Clearinghouse in Little Rock. The Clearinghouse is a state-run organization whose job is to record any payments it receives, and then send those payments on to the receiving parent. If you have been ordered to pay child support in the state of Arkansas and you don't make those payments through the Clearinghouse, there is a very good chance that you won't receive any credit for those payments. It's always a good idea to make your payments through the Clearinghouse, and they have a website which allows you to make those payments online, if that's a more convenient option for you.
In Arkansas, failure to pay child support is a crime, the seriousness of which (felony or misdemeanor) is determined by just how far behind a paying parent might be. In addition to the criminal aspects, enforcement of child support payments may also be made through a contempt action with the courts. The Office of Child Support Enforcement can help you with your case, or you can hire a private attorney to represent you in your efforts to enforce a child support order.
Judges have a number of options at their disposal to help with the enforcement of child support payments. Jail time, suspension of license and the seizure of assets (such as tax return refunds) are methods often used by the Courts to collect child support from parents who are behind in their obligations. We help individuals on both sides of these types of cases, and can usually negotiate settlements that will ensure that a paying parent stays out of jail (so that they can continue to work and earn money to pay support), or to ensure that a receiving parent gets the maximum amount of support for their family.
Child support issues can be very tricky to sort through, and they often require a creative approach in order to get a resolution that truly achieves what matters: the payment of child support. Rhoads & Armstrong can help. Please call 479-254-0135 for a confidential consultation or connect with us via our online contact form.