Arkansas Child Support Laws
Establishing Arkansas Child Support: Arkansas uses a Percentage of Income formula in determining child support. This method simply applies a percentage, based upon the number of children requiring support, to the income of the non-custodial parent who is obligated to support the children. The Family Support Chart and its guidelines, developed by the Arkansas Supreme Court, are based on the needs of the children and the ability of the non-custodial parent to provide support. Generally, it is presumed that the amount of support calculated from the Family Support Chart is correct and will be followed unless the court can justify a deviation.
Any parent or person with custody of a minor child can apply for child support through their attorney with the Circuit Court of the county in which they reside, or through the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OSCE). If the support is requested as part of a divorce proceeding, the order will be determined within the divorce process.
The court requires each party to complete and exchange an Affidavit of Financial Means that will be used to establish income.
When the paying parent's income exceeds the amounts provided on the Family Support Chart, the court will apply the following percentages:
Deviations: Despite the assumption that the Family Support Chart guidelines are correct, the court may deviate from the guidelines. Relevant factors the court will consider are food, shelter and utilities; clothing; medical and dental expenses; educational expenses; child care; accustomed standard of living; recreation; insurance; transportation expenses; and other income or assets available to support the children.
In addition, the court also has discretion to adjust child support obligations based on the non-custodial parent paying for expenses such as:
Health Insurance and Arkansas Child Support: The award for child support in Arkansas includes a medical order determining which parent will be responsible for the children's health care needs, including health insurance. The standard medical order in Arkansas requires both parents to carry medical insurance if it is available through their employer at a reasonable cost. This medical order usually requires each parent to pay half of the medical expenses of the children not covered by health insurance.
Abatement of Support for Extended Visitation: If the children stay with the non-custodial parent for an excess of fourteen consecutive days (e.g. summer vacation), the court may consider a reduction or abatement of child support up to 50% for that period of time. This abatement is based upon the increased costs to the non-custodial parent associated with the extended visit. This abatement may be prorated annually to maintain equal monthly support payments.
Enforcement of Arkansas Child Support Orders: The vast majority of child support orders In Arkansas are collected by employer wage assignment and tracked through the Arkansas Child Support Clearing House, where they are disbursed to the custodial parent.
The Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) is responsible for enforcing child support orders. If the non-custodial parent fails to make child support payments, the custodial parent can contact the OCSE for assistance in getting child support paid. Such enforcement measures used by the OCSE include wage garnishment, liens on houses, property and financial accounts, interception of federal and state income tax refunds, reports to credit bureaus, suspension of drivers', business and professional licenses, publication of names and pictures of “deadbeats” on the internet and newspapers, and possible prosecution.
Under Arkansas law, unpaid child support accrues interest at a rate of 10% per year.
Modification of Arkansas Child Support: Either parent may petition the court for a modification of child support if they can show a material change in circumstances. Arkansas law states that a change of 20% or more than $100 per month in the non-custodial parent's income is sufficient to demonstrate such a material change. In addition, a change in the non-custodial parent's health insurance status is also considered a material change.
Tax Exemptions: Allocation of dependents for tax purposes belongs to the custodial parent pursuant to the IRS. However, Arkansas allows the court the discretion of awarding the dependency allocation to the non-custodial parent if the benefit to the non-custodial parent substantially outweighs the benefit to the custodial parent.
Emancipation: In Arkansas, the age of emancipation, when parents are freed from any further support obligations, occurs when the child turns eighteen or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later, or dies. The support order may continue beyond eighteen if the child has a handicap affecting his or her ability to live independently.
A child who is eighteen may sue a parent who owes back Arkansas child support, until that child reaches the age of 23.
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