CHILD SUPPORT IN ARKANSAS
“Minor child” means a child less than 18 years of age.
“Noncustodial parent” means a parent who resides outside of the household or institution in which the minor child resides.
“Child support Order” means a judgment, decree, or order, whether temporary or final or subject to modification issued by a court or an administrative agency that has competent jurisdiction, for the support and maintenance of a child…..
A parent who has custody
A third party who has custody
An agency that has been given physical custody
A minor child by and through his or her guardian (when a minor has a child)
The Office of Child Support Enforcement
(a) The circuit courts in the several counties in this state shall have exclusive jurisdiction in all civil cases and matters relating to the support of a minor child or support owed to a person eighteen (18) or older that accrued during that person's minority.
(b) The following may file a petition to require the noncustodial parent or parents of a minor child to provide support for the minor child:
(1) Any parent having physical custody of a minor child;
(2) Any other person or agency to whom physical custody of a minor child has been given or relinquished;
(3) A minor child by and through his or her guardian or next friend; or
(4) The Office of Child Support Enforcement of the Revenue Division of the Department of Finance and Administration when the parent or person to whom physical custody has been relinquished or awarded is receiving assistance in the form of Aid to Families with Dependent Children, Medicaid, Title IV-E of the Social Security Act -- Foster Care, or has contracted with the department for the collection of support.
(c) Any person eighteen (18) years of age or above to whom support was owed during his or her minority may file a petition for a judgment against the nonsupporting parent or parents. Upon hearing, a judgment may be entered upon proof by a preponderance of the evidence for the amount of support owed and unpaid.
The State of Arkansas has a family support chart that provides the amount of child support to be paid based on a noncustodial parent’s income after deducting federal and state taxes, Social Security (FICA), medicare, medical insurance paid for dependent children; and presently paid support for other dependents by court order AND the number of children to be supported. (Weekly support chartBiweekly support chart Semimonthly support chart Monthly support chart)
When the Court is determining a noncustodial parent’s income it will consider most all sources of income. For instance: salaries, commissions, bonuses, worker’s compensation, disability income, and other benefits provided by an employer.
The Court will presume that the amount of support listed in the support chart is the correct amount and must order at least that amount even if the individuals agree to a lower amount. However, there are some limited circumstances where the Court may choose to use an amount that differs from the support chart.
A.C.A. 9-14-106 (a)(1)
(a) (1) (A) In determining a reasonable amount of support initially or upon review to be paid by the noncustodial parent or parents, the court shall refer to the most recent revision of the family support chart.
(B) It shall be a rebuttable presumption for the award of child support that the amount contained in the family support chart is the correct amount of child support to be awarded.
(C) Only upon a written finding that the application of the family support chart would be unjust or inappropriate as determined under established criteria set forth in the family support chart shall the presumption be rebutted.
Administrative Order 10
Section II. Definition of income.
Income means any form of payment, periodic or otherwise, due to an individual, regardless of source, including wages, salaries, commissions, bonuses, workers' compensation, disability, payments pursuant to a pension or retirement program, and interest less proper deductions for:
1. Federal and state income tax;
2. Withholding for Social Security (FICA), Medicare, and railroad retirement;
3. Medical insurance paid for dependent children; and
4. Presently paid support for other dependents by court order, regardless of the date of entry of the order or orders.
Cases reflect that the definition of "income" is "intentionally broad and designed to encompass the widest range of sources consistent with this State's policy to interpret 'income' broadly for the benefit of the child." Evans v. Tillery, 361 Ark. 63, ___S. W.3d ___(2005); Ford v. Ford, 347 Ark. 485, 65 S. W.3d 432 (2002); McWhorter v. McWhorter, 346 Ark. 475, 58 S.W.3d 840 (2001); and Davis v. Office of Child Support
Administrative Order 10.
For Self employed payors, support shall be calculated based on the last two years’ federal and state income tax returns and the quarterly estimates for the current year. A self employed payor’s income should include contributions made to retirement plans, alimony paid, and self employed health insurance paid; this figure appears on line 22 of the current federal income tax form. Depreciation should be allowed as a deduction only to the extent that it reflects actual decrease in value of an asset. Also, the court shall consider the amount the payor is capable of earning or a net worth approach based on property, life style, etc.
If it is shown that the noncustodial parent is capable of earning income then the Court will likely set child support based on the income of a person who earns minimum wage and works a full work week.
Administrative Order 10.
d. Imputed Income. If a payor is unemployed or working below full earning capacity, the court may consider the reasons therefor. If earnings are reduced as a matter of choice and not for reasonable cause, the court may attribute income to a payor up to his or her earning capacity, including consideration of the payor's life-style. Income of at least minimum wage shall be attributed to a payor ordered to pay child support.
If the child support order provides for an abatement then the noncustodial parent is entitled to reduce the child support payment according to the percentage provided in the child support order. Typically, you will see a 50% abatement when the noncustodial parent has the children for more than 14 days. It is important to note that a reduction in child support is only allowed when it is stated in the child support order.
When the child support order provides for an abatement the noncustodial parent must provide the proper notice before they are entitled to reduce the child support amount. One, the noncustodial parent must provide written notice within 10 days of the extended visitation period to the circuit clerk in the county where the child support is paid. Two, if child support is paid by wage withholding through their employer, they must provide notice to the employer as to when the reduction begins and ends. Finally, if the case is maintained by the Office of Child Support Enforcement then the noncustodial parent must notify that office as well.
A.C.A. 9-14-106 (a)(2)
(2) (A) The court may provide for a partial abatement or reduction of the stated child support amount for any period of extended visitation with the noncustodial parent.
(B) The court shall consider whether an adjustment in child support is appropriate, giving consideration to the fixed obligations of the custodial parent that are attributable to the child, to the increased costs of the noncustodial parent associated with the child's visit, and to the relative incomes of both parents.
(C) Abatement or reduction of the chart amount and justification of the abatement or reduction shall be clearly set forth in the written findings of the court.
(D) (i) The noncustodial parent shall provide written notification within ten (10) days when abatement or reduction of child support should occur due to extended visitation to the clerk of the court responsible for receipt of the child support payment, the noncustodial parent's employer, if income withholding is in effect, and the Office of Child Support Enforcement of the Revenue Division of the Department of Finance and Administration when applicable.
(ii) It is the responsibility of the noncustodial parent to notify the clerk of the court responsible for receipt of the child support payment, the noncustodial parent's employer, if income withholding is in effect, and the office, when applicable, when abatement or reduction should stop and payment of child support should resume.
(E) If the noncustodial parent fails to exercise extended visitation periods, the child support shall not be abated or reduced.
If the noncustodial parent or “payor” has an increase or a decrease in income of more than 20% or more than $100 per month they may file a petition and ask the Court to reduce the child support amount. If the Court determines that the noncustodial parent’s income has reduced then it will look to the child support chart based on the noncustodial parent’s current income to determine the new child support amount.
OR in many instances, if there is an inconsistency between the noncustodial parent’s income and the existing child support chart.
A.C.A. 9-14-107 (a)(1) and (a)(2)
(a) (1) A change in gross income of the payor in an amount equal to or more than twenty percent (20%) or more than one hundred dollars ($ 100) per month shall constitute a material change of circumstances sufficient to petition the court for modification of child support according to the family support chart after appropriate deductions.
(2) An inconsistency between the existent child support award and the amount of child support that results from application of the family support chart shall constitute a material change of circumstances sufficient to petition the court for modification of child support according to the family support chart after appropriate deductions unless:
(A) The inconsistency does not meet a reasonable quantitative standard established by the State of Arkansas in accordance with subsection (a) of this section; or
(B) The inconsistency is due to the fact that the amount of the current child support award resulted from a rebuttal of the guideline amount and there has not been a change of circumstances that resulted in the rebuttal of the guidelines amount.
(d) Any modification of a child support order that is based on a change in gross income of the noncustodial parent shall be effective as of the date of filing a motion for increase or decrease in child support unless otherwise ordered by the court.
(e) When a person is ordered by a court of record to pay for the support of his or her children, the court, at the time an order of support is made or any time thereafter, upon a showing of good cause, may order periodic drafts of his or her accounts at a financial institution to deduct moneys due or payable for child support in amounts the court may find to be necessary to comply with its order for the support of the children.
In the majority of child support orders there is a statutory provision that provides the custodial parent the ability to request income information for the previous calendar year from the noncustodial parent. This request can be made one time each calendar year and must be in writing and sent by certified mail.
If the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) is involved in the case it is entitled to request proof of income at any time. The noncustodial parent must respond to the request within fifteen days, by certified mail.
It is important to note that if a noncustodial parent does not comply with the request from either the custodial parent or OCSE and either files a petition in order to obtain the information it is very likely that the noncustodial parent will be required to pay the costs and a reasonable attorney’s fee that was incurred.
A.C.A. 9-14-107 (a)(2)
(2) (A) (i) Any time a court orders child support, the court shall order the noncustodial parent to provide proof of income for the previous calendar year to:
(a) (1) The custodial parent.
(2) The court shall also order the noncustodial parent to provide proof of income for a previous calendar year whenever requested in writing by certified mail by the custodial parent, but not more than one (1) time a year; and
(b) The Office of Child Support Enforcement of the Revenue Division of the Department of Finance and Administration, when applicable.
(ii) Whenever a custodial parent requests in writing that the noncustodial parent provide proof of income, the noncustodial parent shall respond by certified mail within fifteen (15) days.
(B) If the noncustodial parent fails to provide proof of income as directed by the court or fails to respond to a written request for proof of income, the noncustodial parent may be subject to contempt of court.
(C) If a custodial parent or the office has to petition the court to obtain the information, the custodial parent or the office may be entitled to recover costs and a reasonable attorney's fee.
(D) Once notified of an increase, the office shall file a motion within thirty (30) days for modification of child support.
(E) (i) All income information received by the office shall be used only as permitted and required by law.
(ii) All income information received by the custodial parent shall be treated confidentially and used for child support purposes only.