Piecing the Child Support Puzzle Together
Navigating child support, custody and visitation is already difficult, but for parents that were never married, these items can become more complex issues as paternity, visitation rights and time shared between parents becomes even more problematic than in a “traditional” divorce case. One thing is for certain, regardless of marital status, child support is non-negotiable as every parent is required to financially support their children as every child should be ensured the best possible environment to grow in. Parents that don’t have primary physical custody of their children still have a legal obligation to financially support them. Arkansas requires that child support be paid until the child turns 19 or graduates high school, whichever comes first. There are a few circumstances where the courts may determine that child support be paid past that point. For example, a child that has been ill and requires medical attention beyond the age of majority is a good candidate to continue receiving support.
Arkansas Code contains laws that differentiate between married and unmarried parents. In Arkansas, the unmarried mother is automatically entitled to custody of her child from birth until the child reaches 18, unless, of course, the court determines otherwise due to the mother being unfit and other circumstances. The biological father can petition the court for custody or visitation rights, but not without proving that he is a fit parent and demonstrating that he has assumed responsibilities towards the child in order to be given those rights. Responsibilities the courts consider are financial support, caring for the child, and nurturing duties such as time spent away from work to care for the child.
In order to enforce child support, a child support order must be established. A child support order is a judgment, decree, or order issued by a court or an administrative agency of competent jurisdiction for the support and maintenance of a child providing for monetary support, health care (including health insurance or cash medical support, medical bills in arrears, or reimbursements). Typically, the child support obligation is calculated by using the state’s Child Support Guidelines, however, the court has the power to deviate from the guidelines if there is enough evidence showing that the children need a different amount of support. A few reasons that child support may deviate from the standard guidelines are:
- Basic needs such as food, shelter, and utilities
- Healthcare expenses (medical, dental, vision, psychological or counseling, etc.)
- Educational expenses
- Childcare expenses (nursery, babysitting, daycare, or other expenses for the supervision of children) incurred so that the custodial parent can work
- To maintain the standard of living the child has grown accustomed to
- Insurance (life, health, dental, etc.)
- Transportation expenses
- Courts will also consider the extraordinary time spent with the noncustodial parent
- The amount of support given by payor, even without a court order
- If the amount of child support indicated by the chart is less than the normal costs of child care
The courts do not usually allow gifts to a child as substitutes for cash child support payments.
If you need help establishing child support or receiving the child support already ordered by the courts, contact Kevin Hickey Law Partners today. We have years of experience dealing with child support, custody, and visitation. We can help you get the financial support your children deserve. The River Valley office number is 479.434.2414 and the Norwest Arkansas office number is 479.802.6560.