Arkansas Child Support Guide

by Bernadette A. Safrath

When spouses with children divorce, one parent will have primary custody of the children and the other parent will usually be required to pay child support to provide financial assistance to the custodial parent. Arkansas' child support guidelines set forth which parent will pay support, how the support amount is determined and when the child support obligation can be modified or terminated.

Payment Amounts

Arkansas' child support guidelines set forth the procedure for calculating a non-custodial parent's child support obligation. The guidelines define income as all wages, bonuses and commissions, unemployment benefits, and workers' compensation or disability benefits, less deductions for income tax, FICA, health insurance premiums, as long as the insurance covers the children, and any other child support owed. To determine the support amount, the court takes the total income and applies a percentage based on the number of children due support: 15 percent for one child, 21 percent for two, 25 percent for three, 28 percent for four, 30 percent for five and 32 percent for six or more.

Deviation From Guidelines

Deviations from the general child support amounts are at the court's discretion, based on a child's extraordinary needs or amount of time the owing parent has custody of the child, especially when parents share custody. The custodial parent has primary custody and is owed support, but the non-custodial parent is permitted to pay less support than the guidelines because of the significant amount of time he has custody, during which he is responsible for the child's expenses.

Modification

Child support awards are reviewed every three years to determine whether an adjustment in support is necessary. However, either parent can petition for modification if there has been a material change of circumstances. The law considers a 20 percent increase or decrease in the owing parent's income or a change of $100 per month to be a material change. The court, upon petition from either parent, will adjust the child support award based on the new income.

Enforcement

When the owing parent fails to make child support payments as ordered, Arkansas' Office of Child Support Enforcement, a division of the Department of Finance & Administration, is authorized by the state and federal government to use a variety of enforcement measures. These mechanisms are designed to collect unpaid support, or arrears, and punish the owing parent. For example, the OCSE can order that a percentage of the parent's wages be withheld and transferred to the custodial parent. The agency can also seize tax refunds and place liens on property and bank accounts. If the owing parent tries to sell the property, any child support arrears will be deducted from the proceeds before he receives any profit. A lien on a bank account prevents him from withdrawing funds. Finally, child support arrears are reported to credit bureaus and any licenses the parent holds, including driver, business, boating, hunting and professional, like a law or medical license, can be suspended until arrears are paid in full.

Termination

Arkansas law states that the child support obligation terminates when the child turns 18. However, if the child is still enrolled in high school, the parent owing support will be required to pay support until the child turns 19 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs first. Also, child support terminates prematurely if the child dies, marries, becomes emancipated or is adopted by the custodial parent's new spouse. Adoption effectively terminates the owing parent's parental rights and obligations.