Child Support

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Child Support Overview

If you are a parent undergoing a divorce involving minor children, it’s likely you’ll have many child support questions. Child support is a court-ordered payment from one parent to the other for the expenses incurred in raising his or her child. Support is usually paid to the parent with whom the child resides the majority of the time and provides for food, housing, education, clothing, and other basic expenses.

Under Oregon child support laws, both parents have a legal duty to financially support their children. The amount of support owed by each parent is calculated by a specific set of rules known as the Oregon Child Support Guidelines. This formula generally considers each parent’s gross monthly income and the amount of time they will be responsible for the child’s care—a factor measured in part by the number of times the child stays overnight with each parent. While overnight visits are the primary variable considered, they are not the only time that is looked at. The court may determine additional components in setting support, such as the special needs of the child or the limited resources of the parent. In addition, the formula may consider work-related child care costs and each parent’s health insurance costs for themselves and the child.

In Washington, child support is governed by RCW 26.19, which does not require the court to take into consideration the amount of overnights the payor parent receives. Rather, the combined income of both parents is inserted into a fixed schedule that determines the amount the payor spouse is obligated to pay in child support.

Duration of Child Support

In Oregon, a parent usually must make payments until the child is eighteen years old. However, child support may be extended in some cases. For example, if the child is physically or mentally handicapped child support may be extended indefinitely.

Support may also be extended if the child is going to school or receiving job training. To qualify for child support, the student must generally be enrolled at least half time and maintain a “C” average. In this instance, child support may be extended to age 21 and may be paid directly to the child unless the court orders or the parents agree otherwise. If paid directly to the child, they may use the funds at their discretion and are not required to use the money to pay for tuition, books or supplies.

When Child Support isn’t Being Paid

In Oregon, a parent will face repercussions if he or she is at least three months behind in payments and owes at least $2,500 in back support. Professional licenses, as well as seasonal hunting and fishing permits, may be suspended. Specifically, any commercial driver’s license, general driver’s license, license to practice law or medicine, or even a liquor license held by the parent could be suspended.

Parents seeking to enforce orders for child support have options at their disposal. One option is to petition the court for wage garnishment. Another is to enlist the help of state agencies. A judge can also determine the delinquent parent is in contempt of court. The methods of enforcement involve thoughtful legal planning. You should consult with an attorney before settling on a strategy.

Related FAQs

Can I stop paying child support if the other parent won't let me visit my child?

No. You can go to Court and ask to end the child support order until you receive your parenting time, but you cannot end payments without the Court’s permission. The Court does not look favorably on parents who stop child support payments, and the Court will only allow support to be stopped if there is proof that you have had significant problems in exercising your parenting time.

Can I stop allowing parenting time if the other parent stops paying child support?

No. You must give the other parent the parenting time ordered even if child support is not being paid.

Do support payments end with retirement?

When a person paying support retires, the obligation of support does not automatically end. However, depending on the financial circumstances of the parties, a court may decide to terminate or reduce support based upon the good-faith retirement of the paying party. For more information see Modifications/Post Divorce Issues.

In Washington, the primary parent may give notice of his/her intention to relocate, and unless the non-moving parent can show the move would be of serious detriment to the child, the move will be permitted. In other words, in Washington the presumption is that the primary parent’s decision to relocate will be in the best interests of child, and so relocations are often granted over the non-moving parents objections. 

How are taxes affected by child support obligations?

Child support payments are not treated as income to the party receiving them, nor are they treated as an income deduction to the party making them.

If my spouse and I are separated, can I get child support?

Yes. Child support may be requested and awarded if you and your spouse are physically separated, as part of a Judgment of Legal Separation, or as part of a temporary financial relief order while a divorce matter is pending.

Can the child support order include insurance coverage?

A parent may be ordered to pay for the children’s health insurance if it is available through work, a union, or a group. The cost of the insurance coverage may increase or decrease the child support payment, depending on which parent is providing the insurance.

Who must pay the child's health care cost that are not covered by insurance?
The parent with custody must pay the “out-of-pocket” costs; however, typically the child support order will state that such costs are to be shared or paid by the other parent. Oregon child support guidelines anticipate that the custodial parent will pay the first $250.00 of unreimbursed medical expenses. This presumption does not exist in Washington.