In Oregon, both parents are responsible for child support. However, your custody arrangement can impact which parent pays support. Typically, only the “noncustodial parent” (parent who spends the least amount of time with the child) makes payments. The “custodial parent” (parent who lives with the child) remains responsible for child support too, but the law assumes that the custodial parent spends the required amount directly on day-to-day care of the child.
The amount of child support ordered depends on the child’s needs and the parents’ ability to pay. Oregon child support laws set a baseline amount of support – also called “the Oregon 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 decrease or increase the amount of child support.
A parent can establish child support through a divorce proceeding, custody suit, or by application to the Oregon Child Support Program. 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. A judge may adjust the amount of support down or up. For more on the process of obtaining support see the Oregon Child Support Timelines.
The Department of Social Services provides a Oregon Child Support Calculator and a Child Support Worksheet to help you estimate your fair share of child support. The state agency also provides a Oregon Parenting Time Calculator to help you with your parenting time percentages. "Parenting time," or the way the parents share custody, impacts how child support will be divided between the parents.
You’ll 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.
Paying parents can’t reduce child support by working less or not at all. When a parent is unemployed 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.
A judge will evaluate your reasons for challenging support and will decide whether to adjust payments based on the following criteria:
Establishing child support is just half of the battle – collecting child support is the other half. The paying parent (also called the “obligor”) can make child support payments via cash, check, bank transfer, direct deposit, Zelle, or Venmo.
The obligor parent should make child support payments in full and on time each month. A deadbeat parent can’t avoid his or her child support obligation by simply not paying. If you’re struggling to collect child support from your ex, contact the Oregon Child Support Program for help. The agency can take legal action on your behalf and garnish your ex’s paychecks, collect federal and state tax refunds belonging to your ex, place a lien on his or her property, and even suspend his or her driver’s license and passport.
Divorce and separation raise issues of who receives the dependent deduction or child tax credit. Your divorce decree or custody order will specify which parent receives that tax benefit. Some parents share the deduction by one taking the benefit in even years and the other parent getting odd years. In other custody situations, typically the parent who lives with the child more than 50% of the year will reap the tax benefit. This is usually the custodial parent.
There is no tax credit for paying child support and child support is not counted as income for the receiving parent. Also keep in mind that a parent’s child support arrears (past due and owing child support) can be deducted from a parent’s tax refund.
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 circumstances. A common change in circumstance is the loss of a job, but it could also be a life change like a new baby, or an international relocation.
After thirty-five months (without a substantial change in circumstance) any change in the amount of support must conform to the Oregon child support 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.
In addition to the links above, see the Oregon Child Support Program website, including the Forms page where you can find forms and applications in both English and Spanish. Read more about issues related to child support in Oregon on our page.