Arkansas bases child support amounts on the income of the noncustodial parent. The court usually orders the parent's employer to withhold support amounts from the parent's paycheck.
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The child's right to support is written into the Arkansas Code — 9-12-312(a) — and the state's Family Support Act. A noncustodial parent can usually estimate her payments simply by looking up her income on the state payment charts.
The Arkansas Judiciary website says the state defines income broadly to include:
- Bonuses, sometimes including bonuses that haven't been paid yet
- Pension payments
"Cases reflect that the definition of 'income' is 'intentionally broad and designed to encompass the widest range of sources consistent with this State’s policy to interpret ‘income’ broadly for the benefit of the child.' — Arkansas Judiciary
If a parent is unemployed or working below her maximum earning capacity, a judge will ask why that is so. If it's purely a matter of choice, the judge can assign a higher support than the parent's income would normally require — at least as much as if she earned minimum wage.
The court order will also arrange coverage for the child's medical needs. The preferred choice is for one of the parents to insure the child, assuming either parent has coverage available at a reasonable price. The cost of health care is one of the aspects of child support that allows a judge to deviate from the state guidelines.
When Support Ends
The parent's child-support obligation normally ends when the child turns 18 and becomes a legal adult. If the child is still in high school, payments can continue until he graduates or reaches the age of 19, whichever comes earlier. A child also becomes an adult if he gets married or joins the military.
Modifying Child Support
A parent can request that the state review the child support order once every 36 months. If the obligation has changed by 20 percent, or more than $100 per month, either parent can petition the Office of Child Support Enforcement or the courts to change it. If there's a major change in circumstances — loss of a job, another child born — a parent may request a review at any time. When a child becomes an adult, the state automatically recalculates the payment amount, whether to reduce it or shift more money to minor children still at home.
If the paying parent doesn't provide the money as ordered, the custodial parent can apply to the CSE for help. This costs $25 for anyone who's not on public assistance. CSE can help find the other parent if her location is unknown and then take legal steps to collect from her. CSE's methods include garnishing bank accounts and suspending driving and professional licenses.
Statute of Limitations
The Support Collectors website says that back child support becomes uncollectible five years after a child turns 18. If the state or the parent has a court judgment against the nonpaying parent, however, the judgment is good for 10 years.