Child Support Payments – What to Expect

You probably landed here because you’re going through a divorce, or you’re thinking about it, and you have children. If so, you’re in the right place. There are many issues surrounding child support in Arkansas and it’s important to know what your rights are.

When will a court order child support payments?

A court will almost always order child support when one of the parents in a divorce is going to get “primary physical custody.”  That is the parent who is going to spend more time with the child than the other parent. The parent spending more time with the child is the “custodial parent.” The parent spending less time with the child is the “non-custodial parent.” If the court orders this sort of custody arrangement, it is going to order the non-custodial parent to pay child support.

To determine the child support amount, the court looks at the non-custodial parent’s income.  For more information on the factors going into the amount of child support you or your spouse might end up paying click here.

How do I change a child support amount after it’s established?

Many non-custodial parents experience life changes that make it harder or easier to pay child support. The law calls these “material changes in circumstances.” That’s just a fancy way of saying that things have changed dramatically enough to justify the non-custodial parent paying more or less.  The most common change is the non-custodial parent’s income going up or down.

When this happens, either parent can “move the court” to change the child support payment amount.  That just means that you file something with the court explaining that things have changed and the court should change the payment.  It doesn’t matter if you’re the custodial parent and you think that your former spouse just got a huge raise, or if you’re the non-custodial parent and you just lost your job.  Either of those sets of circumstances is good reason for the court to change the support amount.

One important thing to note is that Arkansas courts almost never honor private agreements between parents. For example, say you and your ex agree to you paying a smaller support payment, but you don’t get the court to approve it. Then, a year or so down the line, things go sideways with your ex.  If your ex wants to, they can ask the court to hold you in contempt. That means that you haven’t been complying with the court’s order. Because the court didn’t OK your smaller payment, you’re not doing what the court told you to do, even if your ex was alright with it at the time. It’s important to get a court to sign off on any change in a support payment to prevent this scenario from happening.

This is something we at wh Law | We Help do all the time.  If you are looking to modify a child support amount, give us a call.  We can review your case for a change of circumstances and move the court to change it for you.

What happens if I don’t pay my child support payments?

As I outlined above, you can be “held in contempt” if you don’t pay the right child support payment.  The same is true if you don’t pay any child support, at all.

If you’re not paying child support, the custodial parent can file a “motion for contempt” with the court.  The court will then order you to appear in court and explain why you haven’t paid. If the court doesn’t think you’ve had good reasons for not paying, they can hold you in contempt.

There can be serious consequences if you’re held in contempt of court.  You can be ordered to pay all the child support you owe right then and there.  The judge can jail you until you pay what you owe. If the court thinks the contempt is serious enough, it may just jail you for a certain period of time.  The judge can’t jail you for more than thirty days, though.

Bottom Line: There are a big number of legal issues surrounding child support.  If you are having an issue with a child support obligation, or getting one established, we can help.  We’ve handled a ton of cases in this area of the law and we know how to navigate the difficult issues.  Give us a call for a free consultation today.

Some other interesting blogs on the topic:

Child Support Laws: Equitable and Fair for Both Parents?

How Far Back Does Arkansas Child Support Go?

When Does Arkansas Child Support Stop?