Oregon Laws on Child Support & Welfare Assistance

by Beverly Bird

If you and your spouse are breaking up and you're receiving public assistance, often referred to as welfare, your divorce will involve a third party to some extent – the government. In many states, including Oregon, certain child support rules will apply to you that don't apply to other parents.

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Public Assistance

For child support purposes, Oregon defines public assistance as benefits received under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, or TANF; Medicaid; or Oregon Health Plan Services. The pivotal issue is whether your children are covered by any of these programs. For example, you might receive Medicaid assistance due to a disability, while your children are covered by a health plan offered by their other parent's employer. If your children don't receive any public benefits, the state will not get involved in child support issues when you divorce. However, if your children are not receiving benefits now, but they did in the past, the government has an interest in any child support you receive as part of your divorce.

Oregon Division of Child Support

Oregon doesn't want to have to worry about you turning your child support over to the state every month. If you're receiving public assistance, or if your children did in the past, your divorce decree will specify that your soon-to-be ex must pay support through the state's Department of Justice, Division of Child Support. He must give the money directly to the state. If your family isn't currently on public assistance, or only received it for a short while, speak with a local attorney to find out how long this will last.

Payment of Support

If you're the noncustodial parent paying child support, and if you're personally receiving public assistance, you're relieved of the obligation to pay child support in most cases. Your ex might not like this, however, and the law draws a fine line between being unable to work and being unwilling to do so. If the court finds that you could work and choose not to, an Oregon judge can impute income to you for purposes of child support. This imputed income might be the state's current minimum wage times 40 hours, representing a full work week, or what you could be expected to earn in your field, whichever number is greater. As a practical matter, however, you probably would not be receiving public assistance if you were physically able to work or could find a job.

Assignment of Support

If your family receives any benefits under Title IV-A of the Social Security Act, you do not get to keep the child support your ex will be ordered to pay you toward their care. Title IV-A covers TANF recipients. It's not necessary for you to agree to this – it happens by operation of the law, so if certain conditions exist, no separate order or action is required to accomplish it. When the state receives your child support, it acts as reimbursement for funds the government has given you for assistance.