When parents separate or divorce, the parent who does not have primary custody of the children will be required to pay child support to the other. Child support reduces the financial burden on the parent who has custody of the child most of the time. In Kentucky, child support laws are set forth in Section 402 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS).
Parents must petition for child support during a divorce or custody proceeding. Kentucky courts will issue child support orders in accordance with the guidelines set forth in KRS. The child support amount is generally a percentage of the owing parent's income based on the number of children in need of support. The standard support obligation is 20 percent of the paying parent's income for one child, 25 percent for two children, 30 percent for three children, 35 percent for four children, 40 percent for five children and 45 percent for six or more children. Those percentages can be adjusted if there are extraordinary expenses for the child, the child has significant financial resources of his own, or by an agreement between the parents.
A parent has a legal obligation to pay child support. This obligation exists until the child reaches the age of majority. In Kentucky, the age of majority is 18. However, if an 18-year-old child has not completed high school, the parent must pay child support until age 19. This extended obligation only exists if the child is enrolled in and actively completing high school. If a parent falls behind on his child support payments, Kentucky has a 15-year statute of limitations for collecting back child support. If any outstanding support is still owed 15 years after the last child covered by a support order turns 18, the obligation to pay that support is permanently extinguished.
Kentucky requires that a parent pay child support as ordered. However, if circumstances prevent a parent from paying the amount of the order, modification may be available. Kentucky's Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) is authorized to review and sometimes adjust the support obligation. The parent requesting modification must establish there has been a "material change in circumstances." Kentucky defines this change as an ongoing event resulting in a 15-percent or more change in the amount of child support owed.
CHFS enforces child support orders that are not paid. The method for collection used most often is wage garnishment, which deducts child support payments directly from the owing parent's paycheck and transfers them to the parent receiving support. However, the law limits the amount that can be garnished to 50 percent of the parent's income. If more back support is owed, CHFS has other methods available to penalize the parent who fails to meet his obligation. CHFS is authorized to seize any federal or state tax refunds, seize any lottery winnings, place liens on property to intercept proceeds from any sale, and deny or suspend any licenses issued in the state (including driver's, hunting, boating and business licenses).