In Oregon, both parents are responsible for child support. Typically, however, only the non-custodial parent makes payments. The custodial parent remains responsible for child support too, but the law assumes that the custodial parent, who has the most time with the child and is primarily responsible for day-to-day care, spends the required amount directly on the child (or children). Payments continue until the child is 18 or longer if the child is enrolled at least half time in a school or training program.
The amount of support depends on the child’s needs and the parents’ ability to pay. The state sets a baseline amount of support according to the child support guidelines. These guidelines are simply a function of the parents’ available income and the number of children needing support.
In addition to the amount given by the guidelines, one or both parents must cover the cost of the child’s health insurance, medical care, and 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 process begins with either a referral to the Oregon Child Support Program (if the child receives public assistance) or by a parent’s application. This state agency proposes an order for child support that will become the actual amount of support due unless you take steps to challenge it. If you disagree with the proposed amount, you can request a hearing with an administrative law judge. At the hearing, you can explain why you need payments to be more or less. Afterwards, the judge may adjust the amount of support either up or down.
For more on the process of obtaining support see the Child Support Timelines.
The Oregon Department of Social Services provides a Child Support Guidelines Calculator and a Child Support Worksheet to help you estimate your fair share of child support. The state also provides a Parenting Time Calculator to help you with your parenting time percentages. "Parenting time," or the way the parents share custody, impacts the way the total amount of child support will be divided between the parents.
You will need to do a bit of homework before you can use these resources, however. For instance, the guidelines calculator requires both parents’ total gross monthly income plus any spousal support amounts, mandatory union dues, payments for any additional children who may require support (from a previous marriage, for example), and any social security or veterans’ benefits the child receives due to a parent’s disability or retirement. Your local child support office can help you collect this information.
A parent can’t reduce a child support obligation by working less or not at all. When a parent is un- or underemployed and has the potential to work more, a court may "impute" or tack on a potential income that this parent should be making. The court determines potential income by reviewing a parent’s work history, education, health, and job opportunities within the community. A court can’t assign potential income when the parent receives workers’ compensation, is in jail, or works less because of a verified disability.
There is a presumption that support calculated by the guidelines is the right amount for your child. Sometimes, however, the total amount or the way it is divided is unfair. Before a child support order becomes final, either parent can request a hearing to explain why these payments are inappropriate. When you present evidence that causes a judge to increase or decrease the amount of support, it is called rebutting the presumption. You can use the Rebuttal Worksheet to help you state your case.
An administrative law judge evaluates your reasons and decides whether to adjust payments based on the following criteria:
Once a child support order is in place, you may still be able to change it. You can ask to modify (change) the amount of child support if it has been thirty-five months since the last order took effect or at any time if you can show that you have experienced a substantial change in circumstance. A common change in circumstance is the loss of a job, but it could also be a life change like a new baby or a shift in the amount of time your child spends with you.
After thirty-five months (without a substantial change in circumstance) any change in the amount of support must conform to the guidelines. This means that your payments could go up or down depending on how the guidelines and parents’ income have changed.
You can read more about how to modify a current order for child support under the Child Support Timelines.
You can also read the law at the Oregon Administrative Rules 137-050-0700 through 137-050-0765.