Arkansas law takes much of the pain and fuss out of calculating child support. If it appears that you'll be the non-custodial parent when your divorce is final, estimating how much you'll have to pay – and how you'll pay it – is comparatively simple, given how complex the process can be in other states. Arkansas passed Administrative Order No. 10 in 1990, which offers charts and rules that tell you exactly how much your child support obligation should be.
Percentage of Your Income
As of 2013, Arkansas is one of only nine states, plus the District of Columbia, that still uses a formula called the percentage of obligor's income model for calculating child support. You'll pay a set percentage of your earnings, after certain deductions, depending on how many children you have. For example, if the court determines that your income is $3,500 a month and you have two children, your child support obligation would be $857 per month, as of 2013. Administrative Order No. 10 includes charts that allow you to locate your appropriate obligation, based on how often you're paid and the number of children you have. The figures may be tweaked periodically to keep pace with inflation, but you can check them on the state's website. If you earn more money than the chart provides for, you must add a percentage of the difference to your obligation, based on the number of children you're supporting. These amounts are presumed to be correct, so a judge can only deviate from the guidelines under extraordinary circumstances.
Statutory Definition of Income
Arkansas' definition of income is broad. If you regularly work overtime, this extra money is typically included. In addition to your wages or salary, the court will use any unearned income you receive, such as from investments. If you're collecting disability, unemployment benefits or retirement benefits, this is counted as income, as are bonuses or commissions you receive. If you remarry after your divorce is final, the court can include your new spouse's income as well, because it's available to you. You're permitted to deduct FICA taxes, Medicare, and state and federal income taxes from your gross income. If you're paying child support for children of a previous marriage or relationship, or your divorce decree requires you to pay your spouse alimony, this may also be deducted from your overall available income. If you pay medical insurance premiums for your kids, you can subtract the cost. If you're self-employed, the court will base your income on your last two years' tax returns and the quarterly estimated tax payments you're making during the current year.
Income Withholding Orders
Arkansas requires that you pay child support through income withholding, unless you and your spouse agree to another arrangement in writing, or the court finds reason to waive the requirement. This might happen if you're self-employed as a sole proprietor. An income withholding order goes into effect simultaneously with your divorce decree, legally obligating your employer to deduct the amount of your child support from each of your paychecks and forward the money to the state. The state will then transmit the payment to your ex-spouse.
Duration of Support
Arkansas law is also relatively fuss-free with regard to when you can stop paying child support. Some states require that you file a motion or petition with the court when your child reaches the age of majority, but that's not the case here. Support ends automatically on your child's 18th birthday. But if she's still in school, your support obligation ends on the date of graduation or at the end of the school year after she turns 19, whichever comes first. Because Arkansas' child support charts are based on the number of children you're supporting, if your oldest child reaches one of these milestones, but you have younger children who still require your support, you'll have to petition the court to adjust your obligation to accommodate one less child.