In Oklahoma, child support payments are based on the combined income of both parents and the number of children who need support. Although both parents provide financial support, only the non-custodial parent makes payments. While the custodial parent remains responsible for child support too, the law assumes that this parent, who has the most time with the child, spends the required amount directly on the child (or children). Payments continue until the child is 18 or if the child is still in high school, then until 20.
Oklahoma’s child support guidelines set a baseline amount of support, according to the child’s presumed needs and the parents’ ability to pay. In addition, one parent must cover the cost of the child’s health insurance (although this parent receives a credit for this expense). Also, the parents share the cost of childcare. Other factors like the child’s educational needs and the time each parent spends with the child may also increase or decrease the amount of support.
The Oklahoma Department of Human Services provides a Child Support Calculator and instruction sheet to help you estimate your fair share of child support. To complete calculations, you will need to collect information on income and expenses – like those needed for childcare and health insurance, among others – and know the custody arrangement. Although it may seem daunting at first, just take it one step at a time. A good place to start is with both parent’s total gross monthly income.
For child support purposes, gross income is income from almost every source. It includes salaries, wages, and tips, but also commissions and bonuses. Likewise, it is money that comes from rent that you collect, any interest or trust income, and military pay. Income is also spousal support received from someone other than the parent in this case, annuities, gifts, prizes, and even lottery winnings. You can find most of this information on state and federal tax returns.
If you are unemployed or retired, chances are you still have income in the form of severance pay, pensions, unemployment and disability insurance benefits, social security, and workers’ compensation. For parents who are self-employed, their income will be counted by the value of their business.
A parent can’t reduce a child support obligation by working less or not at all. When a parent is voluntarily un- or underemployed, an administrative law judge may assign an income that this parent should be making. The court decides whether to impute income based on past and present employment, the parent’s lifestyle any relevant factor, such as a parent’s role in caring for young or disabled children.
When calculating gross income, you can leave out child support that you receive for children who are not part of this current case (children from a prior relationship, for example). You can also exclude any adoption subsidy, public assistance (like TANF and food stamps), and payments received to care for foster children.
Once you have the gross incomes for both parents, you can make certain credits or additions based on specific items like a court-ordered payment toward marital debt. That will leave you with the adjusted gross monthly income, which you can use to determine the base monthly child support obligation from the guidelines. You can find the guidelines at the bottom of the instruction sheet.
Keep in mind, however, that parents must divide this base amount between them in proportion to their adjusted gross incomes. In other words, the non-custodial parent will not be responsible for the whole amount. Also, the way you share parenting time impacts how parents share the child support obligation.
The state presumes that the amount of child support calculated by the guidelines is right for your child. Sometimes, however, the total amount or the way it is divided is unfair. Perhaps the child has extraordinary medical needs or is a gifted violinist who studies with an expensive teacher. A court may increase or decrease the amount of support to cover costs like these and any other that bear on the child’s wellbeing when it is in the child's best interests and one of the following applies:
Once a child support order is in place, you may still be able to change it. Recently, Oklahoma has made it easier for parents to request this change with a series of forms and instructions that you can find here. If it has been 12 months since the order issued, you can ask child support services to review the amount. If the new calculation results in a difference of more than 10% -- either more or less than your current order – child support will be modified based on this new amount.
You may also ask to change the amount of support at any time based on a material change in circumstances. Some common, material changes in circumstance are when a parent loses a job or when childcare is no longer necessary. It could also result from a medical expense, after a shift in the amount of time the child spends with you, or when the child has turned 18 and no longer attends high school.
In addition to the links above, see the Oklahoma Department of Human Services website for more on establishing, modifying, and enforcing child support orders.
You can also read the law at the Oklahoma Statutes Annotated Title 43, Section 118.