What is Child Support, and When does it Occur in Arkansas?
Child support is one of the several subjects of contemplation for estranged parents in Arkansas. According to the state family law, parents must contribute towards the cost of raising a child until he/she becomes independent. The Arkansas Judiciary and the Office of Child Support Enforcement aid parents to initiate and enforce this responsibility. Records of these cases are mostly available to the public unless sealed by court order or statute.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching more straightforward, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the document or person involved
- Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party websites may vary.
What is Arkansas Child Support?
Child support is a decree ordering persons who have a child together to provide for the necessary support and care after the dissolution of the family unit (A. C. A. § 9–12–312).. Arkansas distinguished between the roles of parents under this order by assigning one person as the custodial parent. This partner receives child support, and he/she ideally contributes less money to the upkeep of the child while handling other parenting responsibilities. The other partner is the non-custodial parent. He/she pays child support to the custodial parent.
What Does Child Support Cover in Arkansas?
Generally, the court shall ensure that the amount of award for child support payments covers the average cost of supporting and raising a child in Arkansas. Thus, child support provides for the following:
- Educational costs
- Health insurance
- Dental/Vision insurance
- Routine uninsured medical expenses
- Uninsured extraordinary expenses
- Childcare costs
- Travel expenses
- Extracurricular activities
What is the Average Child Support Payment in Arkansas?
It depends. Arkansas uses the Child Support Guidelines to calculate the amount of child support a non-custodial parent must pay per month. According to the guideline, the court uses an income shares model, i.e., each parent’s share of the combined total gross income determines the percentage of income available for child support (Ark. Admin. Order of the Supreme Court, Rule 10 Sec 5)..
The judiciary reviews the guideline every four years to ensure that payment remains equitable and reflects current economic conditions. The goal is that every child must receive the kind of support he/she would receive regardless of the relationship between parents. Interested persons may use the child support calculator and worksheet to estimate the amount payable by him/her. Regarding the extraordinary expenses mentioned earlier, Arkansas uses a deviation factor to give the paying parent rebate for out-of-pocket expenses more than $250.00.
Meanwhile, parents may reach an understanding regarding the payable amount while preparing the divorce settlement agreement. However, the amount must be greater or equal to the estimate prepared with the worksheet. The presiding judge shall also subject the settlement agreement to review before granting a final decree of divorce.
How Do I Apply for Child Support in Arkansas?
The Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) provides systematic instructions for eligible parents to apply for child support in the state. Generally, interested applicants may print a request for services form, complete and mail the request to the OCSE. Alternatively, he/she may visit the local OCSE office to apply. There is also the option of contacting the local OCSE office by phone or calling (501) 682–8398 to begin an application. Out-of-state applicants must check out this webpage on interstate cases before completing an application.
Mail-in applications must go to the nearest local OCSE office in a self-addressed stamped envelope. All applicants must pay an application fee of $25.00 by personal check or money order. The OCSE, however, waives the fees for eligible applicants, e.g., persons on public assistance.
Upon receiving the application, the OCSE shall send confirmation to the applicant and contact him/her for additional documentation or information if required within thirty days.
Note that the Office of Child Enforcement charges an annual service fee of $36.00 from the non-custodial parent. The first fee is payable at the time of initial payment. Thereafter, the service fee is payable on the month of the order each year. Obligated spouses may also opt to pay $9.00 per quarter (A. C. A. § 9–12–312.e1(B)).. Concerned persons may see other associated court costs depending on the nature of the case.
How do I Get Out of Paying Child Support in Arkansas?
Arkansas allows the court to terminate child support under conditions in A. C. A. § 9–14–237. Some of these include marriage, maturity, and getting an interlocutory decree of adoption.
Still, either parent may request a review of the court order for child support. The request, which is once in three years, must be due to a discrepancy in support per the child support guidelines. Otherwise, the parent must have experienced a 20% difference or a $100 change in gross income per month.
The OCSE shall initiate the action on the parent’s behalf, and the court shall assess whether the request merits modification. Note that the burden of proof is on the requester.
Concerned persons may request for modification sooner than mandated if there have been considerable changes in circumstances. These circumstances include, but are not limited to:
- The emancipation or death of a qualified child;
- Incarceration of a parent;
- Significant change in income, ranging from job loss to change in employment, inheritance, and lottery winnings;
Note that the content of this section does not replace professional advice from an experienced family lawyer. The circumstances that make a modification request necessary are unique to every case, and an experienced family law attorney is in the best position to provide legal advice.
What is Back Child Support in Arkansas?
Back child support refers to unpaid child support that accrued since the date of effective order or the last payment date. Back child support is different from retroactive child support, which refers to a claim for child expenses that a custodial parent incurred from birth up to the application date. Arkansas recognizes retroactive child support.
Following an order by the judiciary, the Office of Child Support Enforcement shall take administrative measures to ensure that defaulting parents fulfill the court-ordered obligation.
How Do I Get Back Child Support Paid in Arkansas
Visit the local child support office to submit a complaint. The OCSE uses administrative enforcement tools such as liens, property seizure, reporting the debt to credit reporting agencies, and offsetting state income tax refunds. The OSCE only initiates a court action when administrative mechanisms are ineffective.
In 2020, Arkansas offset the back child support for defaulting parents who received the first economic stimulus check under the CARES Act. However, Congress exempted the second round of stimulus from the Treasury Offset Program (TOP).
Is there an Arkansas Statute of Limitation on Child Support?
No. Per A. C. A. § 9–14–236, child support payments in Arkansas are not subject to time limitations.