Oklahoma Child Support Laws

The following information summarizes Oklahoma child support laws. It is not complete and each situation is different.

Child support is based upon the theory that parents have a moral duty to maintain, protect and educate their children. This moral duty is codified in law to ensure that society does not have not support children if parents don’t. When parents live apart, the state has an interest in seeing to it that parents, not the public, provide for their children. This obligation continues while the child is a minor. There are also certain legal provisions that require support after a child reaches 18. Courts, or an Oklahoma Department of Human Services administrative law judge, have a legal responsibility to set child support. Parents may not waive child support as a matter of public policy. Since 1987, Oklahoma has had child support guidelines. The statutory guidelines determine the amounts of support that parents at particular family income levels are presumed to spend on their children. Child support calculated under the guidelines is presumed by law to be the correct amount of child support.

In Oklahoma, the first step is to determine each parent’s adjusted gross income and add the numbers together to arrive at combined gross monthly family income. Gross income can be calculated one of several ways, including: actual monthly income, or income equivalent to a forty-hour work week (overtime may or may not be included as the court deems equitable); average monthly income while employed during the previous three (3) years; minimum wage paid for a forty-hour work week, or; imputed monthly income for a person with comparable education, training and experience. For the self-employed, gross income is defined as “gross receipts minus ordinary and necessary expenses required for self-employment or business operations.” The Oklahoma Child Support Guideline Schedule is used to determine the parents’ base child support.

The schedule is based on the combined income of both parents and the number of children in the household. Each parent’s percentage share of the combined gross monthly family income sets that parent’s percentage share of the base child support obligation. The parent who is not the primary custodian of the child generally becomes the “obligor,” and pays the primary custodian his or her share of the base support. The actual medical and dental insurance premium for the child is allocated between the parents in the same proportion as their adjusted gross income and added to the base child support obligation. You enter the above information into the unofficial calculator on the OKDHS website to see what your obligation might be. The link is http://204.87.68.21/childsupport/guidelines/calc.htm. The number of nights that you have physical custody of your child(ren) will affect your support obligation. The Oklahoma child support guidelines schedule presumes a “standard” time-sharing or visitation schedule in which the obligor parent exercises 70-90 overnight visits each year. “Shared parenting” in Oklahoma means that each parent has physical custody of a child overnight for more than one hundred twenty (120) nights each year. If the child support obligor exercises more than 120 overnight visits per year, the law presumes the obligor parent is spending more to care for the child. There is a complicated formula which adjusts child support depending on the additional number of overnight visits the obligor parent exercises. The more overnights, the greater the adjustment. “Split custody” means that each parent has primary custody of one or more of the children. In split custody cases, separate computations are made for each parent and the amounts are offset against each other. The parent with the larger child support obligation pays the difference between the two amounts to the parent with the smaller child support obligation.

If the parents income is in excess of $15,000 per month, their income is deemed to be outside the guidelines. The child support guideline schedule goes to $15,000 per month total combined income. For parents who make more than that, child support is computed using the maximum from the guideline schedule, and “an additional amount determined by the court.” Courts consider three factors in setting support: (1) the child’s actual needs, (2) the parents’ ability to pay, and (3) the child’s prior standard of living. Base child support is still divided on a percentage of the parents’ combined income. Trial judges can use different methods for arriving at the amount of support in high income cases. Some review of the specific needs of the child and assign child support on that basis. Some order support based on the top figure from the guideline chart, and further order direct payment of additional expenses such as private school or travel. Others extrapolate additional support using income and support percentages from the top of the guideline chart. There are limits to the benefits that may be accorded the children of even the wealthiest parents. This is described in one Oklahoma case as the “three pony rule,” that is, even if the parents can afford it, no child needs three ponies. The parties can agree on an amount of support that is different from the guideline amounts. Yes, so long as it is in the child’s best interests. A Court may deviate from the child support indicated by the guidelines “if the amount of support so indicated is unjust, inequitable, unreasonable, or inappropriate under the circumstances, or not in the best interests of any child involved.” Both parties must be represented by counsel for an agreed deviation to be approved. Child support does end, however if there is an arrearage the parent that is owed support may continue to attempt collections indefinitely. Any child in Oklahoma is entitled to support by his or her parents until the child reaches eighteen (18) years of age. If a child is still in high school, child support is paid until the child graduates or turns nineteen (19) years of age, whichever happens first. If you are paying support for more than one child, the child support does not drop automatically when one child no longer qualifies for support. You must take affirmative steps to recompute future support for the remaining child or children, and have the court enter a revised support order. When the last child no longer qualifies for child support, the support obligation ends if there is no past due support owed. An income assignment will continue in effect until the employer receives an order or notice amending or terminating the assignment. Child support can be modified as incomes change. Child support may not be modified retroactively. Only future payments can be modified. If you think child support should be modified, failing to act can result in waiving your right to modify. If we can assist you with child support or custody issues, please call us at (405) 684-6735 or e-mail John Graves at John@JohnHGraves.com.