Oklahoma Child Support
Parents have a duty to financially support their children under Oklahoma law. Child support therefore must almost always be paid by one parent in a divorce or paternity case. Child support is paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent per the child support guidelines.
Oklahoma Child Support Calculator
The parents’ gross incomes are used to calculate Oklahoma child support. For purposes of the calculation, gross income is pretax and almost always more than each parent’s take home pay. In fact, gross income is defined so broadly under Oklahoma law that it includes such things as gifts, prizes, disability insurance payments, alimony from another case, etc. Virtually any source of income will be accounted for in the child support computation.
There are some important exceptions, however. Need based income (such as food stamps) are not considered income for child support purposes. Child support from another case is also excluded. The number of overnights with the non-custodial parent (the parent with visitation) is usually the second most important factor in the amount determining the amount of support. Alimony actually paid from a previous marriage will reduce the amount of the support obligation. Likewise child support actually paid for child not covered by the current case and born prior to child at issue will also reduce the support amount.
Child Support Enforcement
Under Oklahoma law, a spouse entitled to receive child support has several remedies at their disposal, including:
Contempt of Court in Oklahoma
Disobeying a court order in a family law case is a crime. Indirect contempt of court is a method by which an attorney can bring to the attention of the judge hearing your case of a violation of that judge’s order. Punishment can range from attorney fees and fines to actual jail time. Because imprisonment is a possibility, it the defendant in a contempt trial has a right to a jury trial.
Generally, every child support order in Oklahoma must contain an order for a wage garnishment unless the spouses agree otherwise. The garnishment order is sent to the child support paying spouse’s employer and that employer must comply with the order under penalty of law. This is the most common and effective way of enforcing a support obligation.
Back child support in Oklahoma (commonly referred to as “arrears”) is treated as a judgment for collection purposes. Meaning, the spouse who is owed the child support may use any tool available under the law to collect the arrears, including the right to order the Sheriff to seize non-exempt property of the spouse in arrears to be sold. The property to be sold can include land, houses, vehicles etc., so long as the property is not exempt from collection.
Can I refuse to provide visitation because of delinquent child support?
No. A common misconception in Oklahoma is that the law allows one parent to deny the other visitation due to back child support. Denying visitation is not only frowned upon under the law, it can be grounds for the other parent to gain custody.
How is childcare accounted for?
Childcare can be extremely expensive and the child support guidelines address it by adjusting the total support amount. Each parent will pay for child care based on their percentage of total income. For example if the father earned 55k and the mother earned 45k per year (for a total of 100k), the father would pay 55% of the cost of child care and the mother would pay 45%.
I found out my kids are not in daycare but I’ve been paying for it. What can I do?
An attorney can file a motion seeking a credit for the over-payment of child care.
Can I get a credit if my income goes down or my spouse’s income increases?
You can seek to modify the child support amount for the future but you cannot get a credit if you have been overpaying because of a change in income. If you are making less money or you suspect your spouse is earning more, you should contact an attorney immediately to lower your child support payment.
How is health insurance dealt with?
Much like childcare, health insurance is paid for on a pro rata basis based on the parties’ income. It most often is ordered to be provided by the parent that has it available through their employer.
Is failing to pay child support a crime?
Yes. The District Attorney can bring charges for failure to support a minor. A civil attorney can cite the non-payer with indirect civil contempt of court for failure to obey a court order. Punishment can include up to four years of imprisonment.
Can I declare bankruptcy to get out of back child support?
No. Under federal bankruptcy law, child support is considered a domestic support obligation and cannot be discharged in bankruptcy if properly objected to.
What if my spouse quits his job to avoid paying?
A spouse who intentionally quits or takes a lower paying job for the purpose of lowering his support payment may be ordered by the court to continue making the same payments, despite having less income.
I was fired. Will I still have to pay child support?
Yes. Generally a court will require that you still pay child support even if you do not have any income. The court will usually determine that you earn minimum wage for child support purposes even if you make less than that.