Without getting into too much legal history, child support used to be an after thought. With the passing of laws, that set forth the child support guidelines in 1988, child support has become one of the biggest issues in current Tulsa Oklahoma Divorce and Paternity action.
We have the hard job of breaking the news to some of our clients that child support is always a given. That is, not considering limited exceptions, child support will ordered and the amount is fixed based on specific computation set forth by the law. It is important to note that child support cannot be avoided. You cannot exchange property or alimony in exchange for not paying child support. You cannot terminate or sign over your parental rights to avoid paying child support. The best way to get your child support obligation closest to $0.00 is for both parties to have equal time with the children and the parties gross income is the same. Otherwise, you will have to show that an agreed deviation from the calculated amount is in the child’s best interest or argue to the court in a hearing that a deviation is necessary.
The Oklahoma child support computation is based on the following main factors: gross income of the parties; how many overnights each parent will have; if the child or children are in day care, how much day care costs, and who is paying for the expense; and health care coverage for the minor child or children and how much it costs to insure these children.
Let’s discuss these main factors:
Day Care Expenses:
If one party is paying for day care expenses, this amount will be factored into the child support computation. A percentage of those costs will be assigned to each party based upon the percentage of the parties total gross income. For example the mother is paying $500 a month in child care. Her percentage of the parties gross income is 25%. This means that in addition to his base child support obligation, the father will have to pay an additional $375.
Often times, though, day care is not included in the calculation, with the parties agreeing to just pay the day care provider their proportionate share of the expenses. This agreement helps prevent the party receiving child support from spending the money on non child related expenses and ensures that at least the day care provider is getting some money.
Just like day care expenses, the Oklahoma child support calculation will assign the parties their percentage of the costs. So for example, the father pays $300 a month to insure only the children. His percentage of the gross income is 60%. This means that his base child support obligation will be reduced by $120, which would be the mother’s 40% “share” of the expense to cover the children’s health insurance
If the children are not insured or receive Sooner-care benefits, then this too is factored into the child support computation, with the party paying child support not only having to pay the base amount of child support but also a set amount of cash medical support, which is a statutorily set amount that the state has decided is what it costs for medical coverage for the minor children.
The child support computation will also set forth that if the paying individual can find health insurance for a set amount (5% of that individuals gross income), then they have the right to enroll the children in that insurance policy, which would get rid of the cash medical support.
This is where Divorce and Paternity cases can get difficult. By law there is no presumption for or against joint custody. Custody often becomes a fighting point, not only because divorce and paternity actions are emotional, but because credits are given the individual whom is to pay child support once they individual has 121 overnights, thus reducing his based child support obligation. It is not uncommon when representing a father that the father will ask for equal time in hopes of reducing or eliminating his child support obligation. Crosswise, it is not uncommon for the mother to want the father to have the minimum amount of visitation, because the amount of child support will be higher.
There are statutory provisions to prevent the withholding of visitation during the pendency of family law cases, but unless the parties can agree to the amount of overnights each party will have, the matter will have to be brought for a hearing before the court. While the judicial trend is moving towards equal time, if it comes to a hearing, the courts will examine the parties’ work schedules, availability, relationship with the children, and of course whether one party can even actually exercise overnights because of their current living arrangements.
This is the big one and what sets up a parties base child support obligation. There are several ways to impute income for child support purposes. For instance: the parties could take the average of there taxable income for the past 3 years; they could be imputed at their current monthly wages; imputed at minimum wage if they are not working; or even what the judge determines they could be making based on their employment history and education.
For purposes of what counts as gross income, without listing the specific exemptions, includes ALL sources of earned income (salaries, wages, commissions, etc.) and passive income (pensions, rental property income, interest income, trust income, etc.)
While child support appears to be simple, in is often a highly contested matter in Oklahoma Divorce and Paternity Cases and hiring an Oklahoma Family Law Attorney can help ensure that you either receive the full amount of child support or help to make sure that you will not be overpaying in your child support obligation.
For A Free and confidential consultation with a Tulsa Child Support and Family Attorney call 918-742-3555 or send us an email with your family law questions