Arkansas is one of the few states where alimony is or rather was calculated based solely on the income of the paying parent, however, as of March 2020, that all changed when a new child support law was approved. If you are a parent in the state, you must be wondering… do these new guidelines apply retroactively? As the custodial parent, do my obligations change? Plus a few other questions.
- The gross income of both parents is determined and combined.
- Each parent’s share is determined by referring to the “Chart of parties combined income” and the number of kids they have.
- Health insurance, extraordinary medical expenses, and childcare expenses are added.
- Your financial obligation is determined by multiplying the % of the income you have available for support.
- The total for each parent’s share is determined by adding each parent’s share of the child support obligation to their share of the allowed additional child-rearing expense.
Sounds complicated, I know, so I advise you to consult with an attorney or use the calculator linked below!
Before the new changes, Arkansas maintained “a percentage of obligor’s income” model. Consequently, the burden of paying child support as mentioned above fell to the non-custodial parent. The model assumed that one parent had primary custody of the child and the other paid child support.
In modern society, this model is unfair because it places more burden on one party. Thus, it had to be changed.
Early this year, Arkansas substituted the percentage of obligor method with a limited version of the “income shares model”. A system that takes into account the incomes of both parents. The new child support law assumes that as your income goes up, so does your obligation. On top of that, these new guidelines are based on the concept that “children should receive the same proportion of parental income that they would have received had the parents lived together and shared financial resources”.
If you are owed child support, the model assumes that you are spending your calculated share directly on your child. On the other hand, there is a base level of child support that the payor must provide.
Additionally, the base obligation can be adjusted to account for:
- Out of pocket medical expenses exceeding $250.00 per child.
- Health insurance premiums
- Child care expenditures.
The reason child support is expensive in Arkansas is. “Child support is at the discretion of the court”, consequently, a judge will decide how much you pay and that may increase your legal fees or sometimes parental conflict. So, my advice is, work closely with a lawyer.
Unlike in the past, from 2020 henceforth, Arkansas’s child support formula will also take into account the amount of time the non-custodial parent receives, and the incomes of both parents. That means, to calculate alimony, the considerations are:
- Monthly net income of both parents.
- Each parent’s share of the basic child support obligation.
- Monthly child-rearing expenses, including health care, extraordinary medical expenses, cost of work-related child expenses, and total additional child-rearing expenses.
- Credit for additional child support expenses.
- FICA, federal and state income tax
Note that further changes may be made to this new child support law, so, bookmark us for updates and work closely with a family court attorney.
Right now, you can get your child support estimate here.
Note that in Arkansas, ‘income‘ refers to any form of payment, be it periodic or otherwise. Consequently, wages, commissions, bonuses, worker’s compensation, disability, and pensions are all considered income.
To determine if child support is inappropriate or unjust, the court considers all relevant factors including extraordinary travel expenses for court-ordered visitation, court-ordered responsibility to a stepchild, education expenses, and so on. Remember, any deviation from guidelines set in Administrative order 10 must be presented in writing.
Grounds for modification
Deviation from the minimum order may be considered if:
- The payor is incarcerated.
- Your (payor) only income is SSI (Supplemental Security Income)
- Your ability or inability to work.
- The payor has a verified mental or physical disability that precludes work.
There are other factors to consider, so, again, consult with an attorney.
Additionally, Arkansas allows a 10% interest per year on missed support payments. Plus, the Arkansas statute of limitations on back child support/ arrearage is five years past the age of 18. So, if I were you, I’d try to make payments on time! But what if you can’t pay, what happens then?
Note that Arkansas’s new child support law is still up for modification, however, willful failure to pay child support in the state will result in a ‘contempt citation’, what’s that?
Contempt citation is simply a motion for contempt, meaning, the guilty party disobeyed a court order. What’s different in Arkansas is, if you are found in contempt, a judge will order you to pay all past-due child support. Failure will result in monetary fines and or jail time.
Consequently, if your former partner refuses to pay, asking a court to issue a contempt citation is your best course of action.
On the other hand, if you can’t make child support this month, it is in your best interest to contact your former partner or inform the court about your situation.
Contempt of court charges is one way of enforcing child support; accordingly, the courts can also issue orders such as:
- A garnishing order that places a lien against your vehicle/s, or property.
- Your property may be sold to pay child support.
- Order for attorney fees and all other costs incurred by the custodial parent in pursuit of child support.
- The delinquent parent may be excluded from public assistance funds or Medicaid.
- Income withholding.
- A garnishment order may be placed on your bank account.
- Your passport may be” flagged” or denied at application.
Note that the courts allow you to represent yourself. But before you do that, make sure your argument or justification is solid. A good source of information is the state’s court website.
Currently, if you owe more than $10,000 in child support, you may face class C felony charges. Furthermore, any amount above $25,000 is a class B felony.
Additionally, if you leave the state purposely to avoid child support for more than 30 days and you owe more than $2500 or owe more than at least four months in back child support. you are committing a class D felony.
According to the OCSE (Arkansas Office of Child Support Enforcement), trying to leave the state to avoid paying child support is a felony punishable by up to 6 years in prison plus a $10,000 fine.
In Arkansas, child support normally ends when the child is 18 and out of high school. If the child dropped out, alimony will end at 18.
Child support may also end if:
- The child dies or is emancipated.
- The child turns 19 and is out of high school.
- child marries or his/her parents, remarry.
It is also vital to note that once child support is terminated, it does not mean that arrears are wiped out, you still have to pay! On top of that, the court may order additional child support to cover costs including college, meaning, child support doesn’t always end at 18 in the state.
Child support won’t automatically end when the date reaches, thus, it is up to you to inform the OCSE, your employer (if money is withheld directly from wages) clerk of court (where you make the payments, and the custodial parent.
To get emancipated, fill out this form. But what are the requirements?
As stated above, when you turn 18, you are no longer eligible for child support. Furthermore, the state recently signed legislation that allows 17 years or 16-year-old girls and 17-year-old boys to get married. Consequently, to get emancipated you can either get married or turn 18.
Remember, these guidelines are still subject to change, we will update when any changes are made!
The point is if you want to get emancipated in Arkansas, your options are currently limited to:
- get married with permission from your parents.
- Join the military.
- Push for a declaration of emancipation in the courts).
- You must be financially stable.
- Are at least 17 years old.
- You have a legal way of making your own money.
- Demonstrate to the court that emancipation would be in your best interest.
Overall, Arkansas is going through a transition, as is today, your best source of information is the OCSE, a family attorney, and us! We will keep an eye out and update you on any arising information that you should be aware of.
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