Oklahoma Child Support
Oklahoma child support law gives judges the authority to require child support and mandates that judges issue support orders according to specific guidelines determined by state statute.
Getting Child Support in Oklahoma
Any custodial parent can obtain child support in Oklahoma as long as paternity can be proven. In order for the non-custodial parent to have a legal obligation to pay for a child's care, the custodial parent can go to court to obtain a support order.
It is common for a support order to be issued by a judge as part of divorce proceedings in both contested divorces and uncontested divorces. It is also possible for parents to bring a separate action for support outside of a divorce context. Parents may do this on their own or they may seek assistance from Oklahoma Child Support Services (OCSS).
Parents can find their local OCSS office by visiting the locator on the website of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. The OCSS office will help to find absentee parents, will assist in proving paternity, will help parents to file for an order of support, and will assist in enforcing a support order.
OCSS does not, however, provide legal representation to parents, because their purpose is to represent the interests of the child. OCSS also does not help with obtaining an order for spousal support, nor with negotiating a divorce or custody agreement or filing for divorce. Parents who are undergoing a divorce or who are concerned about their legal rights in complex custody cases may, therefore, wish to seek help from a divorce and family law attorney.
Calculating Oklahoma Child Support
When a judge calculates child support as part of a divorce or a child support hearing, the judge will use guidelines found in Title 43 Sections 118 through 118I of the Oklahoma Statutes. Parents who are negotiating their own separation or divorce agreements should also use these guidelines in most cases, as Section 118 establishes a rebuttable presumption that the guidelines apply in all judicial and administrative support proceedings. This means that usually parents may not agree to an amount different than the Oklahoma child support guideline amount. However, if there is compelling evidence why a different amount should be awarded than the guidelines would suggest, a judge may deviate from the normal support amount.
When the guidelines are used to determine support, the first step is to add up the total amount of money that is made by both parents. This is done because there is an assumption in Oklahoma that the basic cost of raising a child is affected by how much money the parents make. Oklahoma wants to ensure that kids get the same total monthly amount of money spent for their basic support needs regardless of whether their parents are married or not, so they've established standard support amounts at each different income level.
After the parent's combined income is added up, any required expenses such as taxes or support payments that are already owed may be subtracted. The amount left over after subtractions are made is referred to as the combined gross monthly income.
In Title 43, Section 119, Oklahoma has a table with different combined monthly incomes. On this table, Oklahoma establishes basic support amounts for each income level based on the number of children the parents have. Parents with one child who are making $650 a month will obviously spend far less than parents with six kids who are making $10,000 a month, so this table simply helps to establish how much the parents together should be spending based on what they make and how many kids they have together. Added to this amount are the costs of healthcare and childcare, which are separate from basic support costs.
The total amount of support required for the child, factoring in basic costs, healthcare and childcare, is then divided up so each parent pays a percentage of the total amount equal to the percent of income he/she contributes. A parent who contributes 25 percent to the combined family income would, therefore, pay 20 percent of the total support owed the child.
Of course, courts usually grant at least partial custody or visitation rights to the non-custodial parent. Since it is natural to assume that the non-custodial parent will pay for the upkeep of the child when he visits, the non-custodial parent is therefore entitled to a reduction in his support obligation based on actual time spent with the child.
OCSS helps to ensure that parents pay the support that they are ordered to pay. One of the best ways to make sure parents pay is to take the money right out of their paycheck before the paycheck is even paid out by an employer. This is called wage attachment and most new support orders in Oklahoma provide for wage attachment.
If a parent doesn't pay, however, OCSS will take action. For instance, a lien could be placed on the home or property of the non-paying parent. His delinquency could also be reported to the credit bureau, and there is the possibility that he will lose his drivers license or professional licenses. Seizure of tax return proceeds is also another common way to collect from parents who don't pay as required.
Modifying a Support Order
Non-payment of child support is not an option, but if it becomes impossible to pay, then modification may be in order. Modification may also be necessary if a child's support needs change or if the circumstances of either parent shift. Modifications can occur every three years upon review, but if three years has not yet passed and a material change in circumstances requiring an adjustment of the child support level occurs, then a request for review may be made anyway.
In order to determine whether a modification is appropriate, the court will consider the current support obligations as compared with the current guidelines. Income changes on the part of either parent are another potential reason for a modification of support, as is a change in the costs of caring for a child.
Getting Legal Help
Although Oklahoma provides resources in OCSS, the resources are limited and are not sufficient to see a parent through a custody battle, a complicated divorce or even a very complex support case. In order to have the best possible representation, consulting with an Oklahoma divorce lawyer may be advisable.