Oklahoma Child Support

Find out how to calculate child support in Oklahoma and how a support award can be modified or terminated.

Oklahoma Child Support

Parents have a legal and moral duty to maintain, protect and educate their children. When parents live apart, the state has an interest in seeing to it that parents, not the public, provide for their children. This obligation continues for as long as the child is a minor. Parents may not waive their obligation to pay child support as a matter of public policy.

Oklahoma established child support laws in the form of guidelines. The Oklahoma child support guidelines determine the amount of support that parents at particular income levels are presumed to spend on their children. Child support calculated under the guidelines is presumed by law to be the correct amount of child support. See 43 Okla. Stat. § 43-118 (2020).

When Does Child Support End in Oklahoma?

All children in Oklahoma are entitled to receive financial support from their parents until they reach 18 years of age. If a child is still in high school, child support is paid until the child graduates or turns 19 years of age, whichever happens first.

If you're paying child support for more than one child, your payment amount does not drop automatically when one child no longer qualifies for support. You must take affirmative steps to recalculate future support for the remaining child or children and ask the court to enter a revised support order.

When the last child no longer qualifies for child support, the support obligation ends if there is no past due support owed. However, an income assignment will continue in effect until the employer receives an order or notice amending or terminating the assignment.

How Is Child Support Calculated in Oklahoma?

The first step in calculating an Oklahoma child support award is to determine each parent's adjusted gross income and add the numbers together to arrive at the combined gross monthly family income.

Gross income can be calculated in several ways, including:

  • actual monthly income or income equivalent to a 40-hour work week (overtime may or may not be included as the court deems equitable)
  • average monthly income while employed during the previous three (3) years
  • minimum wage paid for a 40-hour work week, or
  • imputed monthly income for a person with comparable education, training, and experience.

For the self-employed, gross income is defined as "gross receipts minus ordinary and necessary expenses required for self-employment or business operations."

You can use the Oklahoma Child Support Guideline Schedule to determine the parents' base child support. The schedule is based on the combined income of both parents and the number of children in the household.

Each parent's percentage share of the combined gross monthly family income sets that parent's percentage share of the base child support obligation. The parent who is not the primary custodian of the child generally becomes the "obligor," and pays the primary custodian a proportionate share of the base support.

The actual medical and dental insurance premiums for the child are allocated between the parents in the same proportion as their adjusted gross income and added to the base child support obligation.

How Do Oklahoma’s Child Support Guidelines Work?

Let's say Pat makes $2,000 per month. Jordan makes $3000 per month. They have two children. Jordan's employer provides health and dental insurance for the children. This coverage costs Jordan $100 per month. Pat is the primary residential custodian. Jordan has the children for 100 overnight visits per year. Pat pays $500 per month for childcare while she is at work.

The parents' combined gross monthly income is $5,000. Pat makes 40% of that total, and Jordan 60%. The child support guideline schedule sets the base monthly obligation for two children at this income level at $943. Jordan, the non-custodian parent, is responsible for 60% of the base child support, or $565.80. Because Jordan provides health and dental insurance, Jordan is entitled to a credit for Pat's 40% share of the cost, in this case, $40. Jordan pays Pat, the primary custodian, Jordan's share of the base child support ($565.80) minus the credit for Pat's share of health insurance costs ($40), for a total monthly obligation of $525.80.

In addition to the monthly obligation above, Jordan is responsible for 60% of Pat's employment related childcare, or $300.

Jordan's total obligation to Pat for monthly child support and childcare in this scenario is $825.80 per month.

BASE MONTHLY OBLIGATION

Pat

Jordan

Combined

Gross Monthly Income

$2,000

$3,000

$5,000

Percentage Share of Income

40%

60%

Base Monthly Obligation

$377.20

$565.80

$943

DEPENDENT HEALTH INSURANCE

Monthly Health Insurance Premium

$0

$100

$100

Monthly Heath Insurance Premium Share

$40

$60

Premium Share Adjustment

($40)

TOTAL MONTHLY CHILD SUPPORT OBLIGATION

$0

$525.80

Monthly Work and Education Related Child Care

$500

$0

$500

ADJUSTED MONTHLY CHILD CARE

$200

$300

Each case is different. Each variable presents the potential for disagreement. Your results will vary. You can calculate Oklahoma child support online (unofficially) using the Oklahoma Child Support Calculator provided by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services or at a privately maintained site dedicated to the Families In Transition program. See 43 Okla. Stat. § 43-118 (2020).

What Is Shared Parenting and How Does it Affect Child Support?

The Oklahoma child support guidelines schedule presumes a "standard" time-sharing or visitation schedule in which the non-custodial parent exercises 70-90 overnight visits each year. "Shared parenting" in Oklahoma means that each parent has physical custody of a child overnight for more than 120 nights each year. If the child support obligor exercises more than 120 overnight visits per year, the law presumes the obligor parent is spending more to care for the child. There is a complicated formula that adjusts child support depending on the additional number of overnight visits the obligor parent exercises. The more overnights, the greater the adjustment, and the less the obligor parent has to pay.

"Split custody" means that each parent has primary custody of one or more of the children. In split custody cases, separate computations are made for each parent and the amounts are offset against each other. The parent with the larger child support obligation pays the difference between the two amounts to the parent with the smaller child support obligation.

What Happens if the Parents' Income Exceeds the Guidelines?

Oklahoma’s child support guideline schedule goes to $15,000 per month total combined income. For parents who make more than that, child support is computed using the maximum from the guideline schedule, plus "an additional amount determined by the court." The trial court considers three factors in setting support: (1) the child's actual needs, (2) the parents' ability to pay, and (3) the child's prior standard of living. Base child support is still divided based on what percentage of the combined income each parent contributes.

Courts have used different methods to calculate support in high income cases. Some review the specific needs of the child and assign child support on that basis. Others order support based on the top figure from the guideline chart and order direct payment of additional expenses such as private school or travel. Still others calculate additional support using income and support percentages from the top of the guideline chart.

It doesn't matter if the lower income parent receives an indirect benefit from child support. The benefit to the child is what the court considers. But there are limits to the benefits that may be accorded the children of even the wealthiest parents. This is described in one Oklahoma case as the "three pony rule"—in other words, even if the parents can afford it, no child needs three ponies.

Can Parents Agree on a Child Support Amount that Deviates from the Guideline?

Yes, as long as the amount is meets the child's best interests. A court may deviate from the child support indicated by the guidelines "if the amount of support so indicated is unjust, inequitable, unreasonable, or inappropriate under the circumstances, or not in the best interests of any child involved." Both parties must be represented by attorneys for judge to approve an agreed-upon deviation.

Who Gets the Income Tax Dependency Exemptions?

Federal tax laws presume that the custodial parent is entitled to the federal income tax exemptions. If the non-custodial parent takes the exemption, the custodial parent must sign a release of the dependency exemption to the non-custodial parent, IRS Form 8332, Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent. Oklahoma courts have the authority to allocate exemptions between custodial and non-custodial parents. The custodial parents can be ordered to release the dependency exemption. The exemption for children may also be awarded to each parent in alternating years.

Is Child Support Different in a Paternity Case?

Child support in a paternity case may be set prospectively. In addition, it may be set retroactively for up to five years before the paternity action is filed. A person legally determined to be the father of a child also may have to pay some or all of the costs related to the child's birth. An action to establish paternity and support can be brought any time before the child reaches the age of 18.

Collecting and Enforcing Child Support Orders in Oklahoma

Child support in Oklahoma is supposed to be collected by income assignment. An order/notice to withhold income for child support directs the obligor's employer to pay a portion of the obligor's earnings for child support. The withheld earnings are directed to a Centralized Support Registry operated in Oklahoma by the Department of Human Services. The Registry records the support payment and forwards it to the obligee parent. The record of payments maintained by the Oklahoma’s Centralized Support Registry becomes an official record of child support payments made.

Parents can agree to pay and receive child support using alternate arrangements instead of an income assignment. Specifically, an obligor spouse can pay support by cash, check, bank transfer, Zelle or even Venmo.

Court-ordered child support is owed until it is paid in full. All current court-ordered child support payments become judgments on the date they are due. A parent who refuses or fails to pay child support can face fines, court sanctions, and even the loss of a driver’s or professional license. If you’re struggling to collect past due support from your ex, contact Oklahoma Child Support Services.

Oklahoma Child Support Modification

The court may modify or change a child support order whenever there is "a material change in circumstances." Courts have held that a material change of circumstance can be an increase or decrease in the obligor's income, an increase or decrease in obligee's income, or a change in the needs of the child. Ordinarily, a parent's increased or decreased expenses due to, for example, remarriage, are not by themselves grounds to decrease or increase child support. Child support is based on income, not expenses.

Child support can't be modified retroactively. A judge only has the authority to increase or decrease future payments. If you think child support should be modified, you'll need to ask a court to recalculate support and issue a new child support order.

If you have questions, you should contact a local attorney for advice.

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