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Oregon Child Support

UPDATED: March 13, 2012

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Oregon child support may be issued through a judge when a parent who has sole or primary custody of his or her children requests support either during a divorce or through a court if paternity can be proven. In the state of Oregon, an income shares model is used to determine the amount of support that the judge will order.

Obtaining Child Support in Oregon

A parent who is raising a child solely or primarily on his/her own may be able to obtain a child support order even without a formal custody agreement established by a court. However, the parent will need to take some legal action in order to get a judge to issue a child support order.

Child support orders are commonly issued as part of divorce proceedings. Parents may choose either a contested divorce, where the judge determines a number of issues related to custody, property or assets, or an uncontested divorce. In either case, if there are minor children involved, a child support order will typically be part of the divorce proceedings.

Child support can also be obtained outside of the divorce context as well, as long as paternity can be proven. Parents may petition the court directly for a Determination of Paternity, if necessary, or only for a support order. However, Oregon also provides assistance to parents who need to seek support through the Oregon Child Support Program.

The Oregon Child Support Program is a division of the Oregon Department of Justice. It helps parents to establish paternity, establish or modify support orders, obtain medical support for their children, or enforce support orders. The program does not however, help with divorce or with the negotiation of a custody arrangement. It also doesn't provide legal representation to parents; the program actually works for and represents only the children since child support is considered to be for the benefit of children. 

Those with simple support cases or limited funds may find that assistance from the Oregon Child Support program is sufficient. They can obtain such assistance by using the Oregon Department of Justice website to find their local office.   Parents who wish to obtain legal advice to protect their interests, or those facing custody issues or divorce may find that the Child Support Program is insufficient in assisting them with their needs and may wish to consult with an experienced Oregon divorce or family law attorney.

Calculating Oregon Child Support

Oregon not only protects the rights of children to receive child support, it also makes sure that kids with separated parents get taken care of financially in much the same way as children whose parents are married. As such, Oregon, like 34 other states, uses the income shares model to determine how much support must be paid.

Under the income shares model, the very first step in determining an appropriate child support amount is to decide how much money the parents together should be spending to support their children. A table called the Obligation Scale is used to make this decision.

To use the obligation scale, the first step is to determine the combined adjusted gross income of the parents. This is equal to the amount of money made by both parents together minus deductions for necessities like taxes and other support payments that already exist. Once the combined adjusted gross income has been calculated, the next step is to reference the scale to find that income amount. At each income level, the scale specifies how much money the parents should spend in total based on how many children they have together. Anyone with between one and ten children can, therefore, determine the basic support obligation using this table.

Of course, children need more than just basic support, they also need healthcare and insurance, as well as childcare. These costs are expected to be split as well, so the costs of both childcare and medical care are added to the basic support amount in order to determine the grand total of what the child should cost his parents each month.

Each parent then becomes responsible for paying a portion of this total cost. The appropriate portion is matched to the portion of income earned by each parent. A parent earning 85 percent of the combined income would, for example, pay 85 percent of the child's support.

When a parent cares for a child personally, it is assumed that some of the cost of the support falls to the parent during this time. As such, the final step in a support calculation is to reduce the support obligation based on the time the child spends with the paying parent.

The guidelines in the state of Oregon are generally to be used in all support cases, regardless of whether the support order is issued as part of a divorce or not. This means that if parents intend to negotiate their own divorce settlement, they still must use the guidelines to decide support.

However, there are sometimes compelling reasons why the support determined according to the guidelines is not appropriate. In such cases, the judge may order an alternate amount to be paid if there is solid evidence that applying the guidelines would not be fair or reasonable.

Enforcing Child Support

Child support orders are legally binding and the parent ordered to pay must do so. In many cases, payment is assured by a wage attachment order, sometimes called a wage garnishment or wage assignment, which results in money being withheld directly from the paying parent's paycheck before the paycheck is received.

When payments are not made as ordered, the Oregon Child Support program can help parents to enforce a support order. There are a number of tools used to make delinquent parents pay, including reporting the delinquency on their credit report, placing a lien on property, or seizing tax returns.

Child Support Modification

Although the guidelines help to make sure child support is fair, the need for support and the appropriate amount of support may change over time. As such, there are policies in place under Oregon law which provide for for periodic review of support orders and which also allow parents to petition the court if review is needed more frequently.

An Oregon support order will generally be open to review once every three years. However, if one or both parents experience a material change in circumstance (such as a job loss, promotion, etc.) or if the child experiences a significant chance in circumstances, it is possible for parents to petition for a change prior to the end of the three year period. The court will, however, need to be convinced as to the importance of the changed circumstances in order to modify the order. 

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