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.

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.

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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.

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Child Support Laws on Back Payments in Michigan

Michigan makes it hard for non-custodial parents to fall behind in their child support obligations because most child support orders include mandatory income withholding provisions. Under this system, your employer deducts your support payments from your paychecks and sends the money to the state's child support collection unit. The unit then sends the money to your child’s other parent. However, some parents have been divorced for some time so their decrees predate the income withholding requirements. Others are self-employed, so income withholding may not work. If you fall too far behind in your payments, Michigan’s Friend of the Court (FOC) will attempt to collect from you.

Child Support Arrearage Laws for Oregon

In 2009, Oregon began taking a notably tough stance against parents who willfully refuse to pay child support; the Department of Justice arrested 21 non-custodial parents and subsequently collected more than $530,000 for their families. If you owe child support arrearages, although incarceration is usually Oregon's last resort to convince you to pay up, it can happen. Judgments for child support in this state are enforceable for 35 years after the date of your divorce decree, if your decree includes provisions for child support. Otherwise, the time begins running from the date of your support order.

Divorce Laws on Court-Ordered Health Insurance

Divorce changes your legal status, and you may lose health insurance benefits because you are no longer married. Your right to receive health insurance through your partner’s plan is frequently based on your marital status. However, some states allow a spouse to keep his ex-spouse on his health insurance plan, even after the divorce. A court in these states may require your spouse to continue your insurance coverage.

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