Table of Contents:
- Laws on Back Child Support in Louisiana
- Iowa Laws on Child Support
- Child Support Laws in Arkansas
- Michigan Child Support Laws
- Child Support Laws in Missouri
- Laws on Back Child Support in Ohio
- Child Support Laws in Florida
Kids are entitled to financial support from both parents, even when their parents no longer live together, so states make a firm commitment to collect child support when families break up. Louisiana’s collection methods are on par with the rest of the country, but in some ways, the state is a bit tougher when a parent owes back child support.
Child Support Enforcement Services
Income assignment is the method most often used when a noncustodial parent is employed. CSE sends an order to the noncustodial parent’s employer, obligating the company to deduct a certain amount from his pay and send it to CSE each pay period until the employee is caught up with child support payments.
State law also provides for the revocation or suspension of a variety of licenses when a noncustodial parent falls behind in child support payments, including vocational, recreational and even driver’s licenses. This is common in most states, but Louisiana goes one big step further: The law also allows for revocation of vehicle registrations. And, if a parent is more than $2,500 in arrears, his passport can be revoked or denied. Other means of enforcement include seizing state and federal income tax refunds, and lottery winnings. CSE can take any of these measures administratively, without first going to court to get a judge’s permission.
The Role of the District Attorney
In some Louisiana parishes, the district attorney assists in collecting past due child support. Custodial parents don’t usually have to take any steps of their own to enlist this extra help. CSE will reach out to the district attorney’s office for assistance in collecting arrears if necessary.
Contempt of Court Proceedings
Either CSE or the custodial parent – if she doesn’t want to go through state services – can file a petition with the court asking the judge to hold the noncustodial parent in contempt for not paying support. The parent must appear before the judge and show why he shouldn't be held in contempt for disobeying the support order. This generally requires that he provide a good reason for not paying, such as job loss or an illness that prevents him from working. If the judge isn’t satisfied with the explanation, he can order jail time of up to 90 days, a fine of up to $500, or both. The judge may suspend the sentence if the parent immediately pays some amount toward the arrears, as well as court costs. If the parent pays the full amount of support owed, the court will purge the sentence. The court can also order a parent in arrears to post a cash bond -- if he falls behind again, he’ll lose the amount of the bond, which goes to the custodial parent.
The Most Wanted List
Louisiana law allows CSE to publicly post a "Most Wanted List" of noncustodial parents who are at least $10,000 in arrears and haven’t made a support payment in six months or more. The posting invites citizens to call in and report the whereabouts of these parents.
Statute of Limitations
The state doesn't give up on all these collection efforts too quickly. Louisiana has a 10-year statute of limitations for collecting child support arrears, and the law includes provisions for extending child support judgments, effectively breathing new life into them, before the 10-year period expires.
Paying child support is a long-term commitment – until your child turns 18 in Iowa, or even 19 if she’s still in high school. The state calculates support according to the income shares method, the more complicated of the two formulas used by most jurisdictions. The idea behind this method is that your child is entitled to the same level of support she would have enjoyed if your family had remained intact.
Income Shares Calculations
The income shares model begins with adding together both parents’ incomes. Then, the Iowa child support guidelines determine how much of the total should reasonably go toward your children’s needs. Each parent contributes to this amount in a percentage equal to his percentage of the total combined income. For example, if you earn $4,000 a month and your ex earns $2,000, your income represents about 66 percent of the total. If the guidelines say that $1,500 should go to your children, your support obligation would begin at $990 a month, or 66 percent of $1,500. The Iowa Department of Human Services offers an interactive estimator on its website to help you get an idea of what you’ll owe. This basic support amount is only the beginning of the calculation, however.
Additions and Deductions
Iowa bases support on parents’ gross incomes, but this is misleading. It’s not what you earn before any deductions are made from your pay. It’s what’s left after you pay state and federal income taxes and FICA, as well as other mandatory deductions, such as union dues or contributions to retirement plans. “Mandatory” is the key word – you can’t subtract items from your gross income if you voluntarily contribute to them. Iowa’s child support guidelines allow for other deductions and additions, including:
- Support you pay for children of other relationships is deducted from gross pay.
- Payments you make for your children’s health insurance are also deducted.
- Child care expenses and uninsured medical expenses may be added to the support order in the same percentages as the basic support obligation.
- You can take an extraordinary visitation credit if your children reside with you more than 127 overnights a year. This is deducted from your basic support obligation because you’re supporting them directly during these times.
Making Support Payments
Most child support is paid by income withholding in Iowa. An order is sent to your employer, who has 10 days to begin deducting the amount of child support each pay period and then must send the money to the state. You can object to the income withholding order by requesting a conference with Iowa's Child Support Recovery Unit within 15 days, but you may not have much luck. Income withholding is mandated by state and federal laws unless both parents and the court agree otherwise. The state will withhold child support from unemployment benefits if you’re not working.
If you don’t pay support through an income withholding order, for example, if you’re self-employed, you must still make payments through Iowa’s Collection Services Center so the state can keep track of them. You can mail a check or money order or arrange for automatic withdrawals from your bank account. You can also take cash payments to any Child Support Recovery Unit office.
Child Support Enforcement
Iowa’s rules for past due child support are similar to those in other states. If you fall behind, such as because you were out of work for a while, an additional percentage is tacked on to your basic support obligation when you become employed again and a new income withholding order will be issued. This added amount goes toward your arrears. Withholding for both arrears and current support can take up to 50 percent of your pay.
The state can take your federal and state tax refunds for arrears if additional income withholding isn’t possible. Iowa may even seize your bank account funds up to the amount of back support you owe. It will report your delinquency to the credit bureaus and can suspend any state-issued licenses you hold, such as your driver’s license.
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.
How Much Money
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.
Michigan adjusted its child support laws in 2008 and again in 2013 to make sure they’re as fair as possible. Although the 2013 amendment largely involved paperwork and administrative changes, the 2008 adjustment addressed the amount of time each parent spends caring for the child as a factor in determining support awards.
Child Support Calculations
Michigan uses the income shares model for calculating child support. The formula uses both parents’ incomes, since each would have been available to the kids had their parents not broken up. The income shares calculation also includes factors that consider parenting time, the number of children who require financial support, health care costs, child care costs and children from other relationships who also need support. The state publishes a manual to walk parents through the steps of calculating all these components.
Like most states, Michigan will impute income to an unemployed or underemployed parent for purposes of calculating child support. This means the judge can use income the parent would earn if he was employed. But the state’s court of appeals ruled in 2012 that this can only happen if a parent is actually capable of employment – meaning no physical or mental disability prevents him from working.
The Effect of Joint Custody
The 2008 legislation recognized that parenting time costs money – the noncustodial parent is directly supporting his children during times when they’re living in his home, in addition to paying child support. This isn't particularly fair if his kids spend a lot of time with each parent so the new guidelines adjust for this. Support obligations are reduced by the amount of time, measured in overnights, that children spend with their noncustodial parent.
If you have joint custody – meaning your child spends the same amount of time with each parent – it might seem to follow that your support obligation would be zero. But it doesn’t always happen this way because so many other factors contribute to a support obligation. The parent with the higher income might end up with a nominal child support payment because the law requires him to contribute to expenses like work-related child care and health care costs.
Age of Emancipation
Child support is typically payable in Michigan until your child turns 18, but the court can continue support until age 19 1/2 if your child hasn’t yet graduated from high school, or if your child is still attending school and is institutionalized.
Child Support Arrears
Child support payments usually must be made through the Michigan State Disbursement Unit, so the state can keep track of them and take action when a noncustodial parent falls behind. If you do fall into arrears, either the other parent or the state can request a show cause hearing with the court where you’re obligated to appear before a judge and explain why you haven't been paying. If you don’t have a good reason, you can be held in contempt of court, which may result in jail time and fines. If you don’t show up for the hearing at all, the judge can issue an immediate bench warrant for your arrest.
The state will take other steps as well to try to convince you to pay. It can suspend your driver’s, professional or recreational licenses, snag your tax refunds and place liens against your property. Michigan reports your delinquency to the credit bureaus and can arrange with the federal government to block you from getting or renewing a passport if your arrears are $2,500 or more. The state applies a surcharge to arrears – an interest rate equal to whatever five-year U.S. Treasury Notes are earning at the time, plus one percent – that continues to accrue until you catch up.
Missouri marches to the beat of its own drum -- at least when it comes to child support. Support can be ordered by the court, but the Family Support Division can do it, too, without the usual obligatory court appearance. In either case, the basic rules remain the same, though there are a few wrinkles.
The Income Shares Formula
All states use one of three different formulas or models to calculate child support. Missouri is in the mainstream in this respect – it uses the income shares method along with 38 other states. This calculation uses both parents’ incomes. It assumes that the custodial parent pays for the children’s needs directly when they're in her care and the noncustodial parent should make regular payments to her household to help defray these costs. The income shares model is a somewhat complex equation, but you can download the child support worksheet – Form 14 -- from the Missouri Courts website. Completing it should give you a pretty accurate idea of what you or your ex will pay. In addition to your respective incomes, the worksheet addresses other factors such as your children’s needs, parenting time, work-related child care, support for children from other relationships, alimony and health care costs.
Missouri courts can reduce child support when a custodial parent is guilty of interfering with visitation without good cause.
Modifying Support Orders
Life happens, so if an event occurs such as job loss or a change in custody that would significantly affect child support calculations, you can go back to court and ask for an adjustment to your order. You must prove that the change in circumstances results in a new calculation that’s at least 20 percent different from your initial order. The recalculation is effective beginning with the date you file a court petition asking for the change. If you continue paying while you’re waiting for the court to hear the matter and decide, you won’t be able to get your money back for any overpayments. However, if you don’t pay at all during this time, you’ll accumulate arrears.
Child Support Arrears
Missouri treats child support arrears much the same as other states, but with one extra penalty. If you fall behind, you can expect wage garnishment for the amount you would regularly owe, plus an additional 50 percent of that which goes toward paying off your past due balance.
Duration of Child Support
You might end up paying child support for much longer if you live in Missouri rather than another state. Although the law provides that support can end when your child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever happens last, in some cases you might have to pay until she turns 21. Missouri is one of the few states that continues child support if your child goes to college. If your child is enrolled for at least 12 credit hours per term and is passing in at least six of them, you must pay child support until she turns 21 or graduates, whichever happens first.
How to Terminate Support
The Family Support Division, which is in charge of collecting child support in most cases, will send the custodial parent a Notice of Intention to Stop Collection of Current Support three months before his child turns 18. If your child meets any of the requirements that allow support to continue – she hasn’t graduated high school yet or she’s been accepted and has enrolled at a college -- your ex can simply return the form to the state. The FSD will continue collecting support on the child's behalf. If your ex does nothing, the FSD will stop collecting your support payments, but this doesn’t officially make your obligation to pay go away.
Your order will terminate automatically when your child turns 21, but you don't have to wait that long if she graduates high school and doesn't go on to college, or she leaves college or graduates before her 21st birthday. You can file an affidavit, asking for official termination of your order. You can download the affidavit form from the Missouri Courts website. File it with the court if a judge issued your support order, or with the FSD if your order originated with that agency.
Your ex is supposed to notify you when your child is no longer eligible for child support. If the FSD is handling her support case, she must notify the agency as well. If she fails to do so and you keep paying, she can be ordered to reimburse you.
In Ohio, an Order for Child Support is considered equally enforceable as any other court order issued within the state. As such, Ohio law affords child support recipients the same opportunities to collect back-owed support payments as it does all other disregarded judgments. Custodial parents who are owed back-owed support can contact the Child Support Enforcement Agency in their county of residence for assistance.
Child Support Enforcement Agency
The Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA) handles all child support matters throughout the state of Ohio. The CSEA is responsible for handling back-owed child support matters, enforcing child support orders and encouraging non-custodial parents to comply with support orders under penalty of fines, jail time and other punishments. To initiate enforcement for back-owed support, contact the county CSEA office where you reside.
Status as Debt
Back-owed support is no longer considered support once the payments are missed. Instead, Ohio law considers it a debt to the custodial parent. This is because the support should have covered certain expenses, such as food, clothing, shelter, education and entertainment costs, that the custodial parent had to pay for herself when she did not receive the money. Though child support is an obligation to the child, back-owed support is an obligation to the custodial parent, one that remains in effect until it is paid back in full.
If the non-custodial parent refuses to pay support as ordered by the court, there are multiple ways to enforce the order. Custodial parents can request wage garnishment (including regular wages, worker‘s compensation earnings, pensions, trusts and disability payments), wage assignment and property seizures from the court to both cover the amount of back-owed support and guarantee future payments. Even if the non-custodial parent finally pays back the back-owed support in full, he may still be subject to fines and other punishments.
Ohio laws considers non-custodial parents who refuse to comply with child support orders to be in contempt of court. Custodial parents can request the family court find the non-custodial parent in contempt if the non-custodial parent refuses to pay support, ignores or evades enforcement or purposely conceals information to avoid her obligations. If the non-custodial parent is found in contempt, she may receive fines and even jail time until she complies with the order.
After enforcement is initiated, the CSEA affords the non-custodial parent 60 calendar days to comply with the support order. After 60 days, the CSEA will provide the custodial parent with written notification about the case’s status. Most cases are closed after 60 days, but this does not terminate the non-custodial parent’s obligation to pay all back-ordered support (if it still has not yet been paid in full), nor does it mean the non-custodial parent will not be punished for ignoring the order.
Even if the Order for Child Support is terminated upon the child’s 18th birthday (or 23rd, if the child attends college), all back-owed child support is still due. Child support is considered a financial obligation, and back-owed support is a debt--one that does not dissolve simply because the order expired. Remember, back-owed child support is a debt owed to the custodial parent, and it is considered reimbursement for the money the custodial parent had to spend herself in lieu of the support covering those expenses. Back-owed child support is expressly excluded from bankruptcy discharge, so the debt will remain effective until the day the last dollar owed is paid in full.
Child Support Enforcement Program
Florida's Child Support Program provides the means for custodial parents to collect on child support orders. The program is required by state law to send child support payments to custodial parents via electronic means such as direct deposit into the custodial parent's bank account or by issuing the custodial parent a debit card upon which monthly child support payments are deposited. Furthermore, the program is authorized by state law to assist custodial parents in locating an absent parent by using various means such as searching motor vehicle registration and driver's license records, searching Department of Corrections records and by contacting the U.S. Postal Service for current address information.
Florida's Child Support Guidelines
Florida's child support guidelines are codified in its state statutes; these guidelines provide information regarding the amount of child support a non-custodial parent is obligated to pay based on his income and the custodial parent's income. The amount of monthly support payments are also based upon the specific needs of the child -- including medical needs and the age of the child. Child support payment amounts are determined by subtracting any allowable deductions from both parents' gross income; these deductions may include mandatory union dues and retirement payments, health insurance premiums and income tax deductions. Once these deductions are subtracted from each parent's gross income, each parent's net income is calculated and combined to come up with the basic child support obligation, as mandated by Florida law.
Enforcement of Orders: Collecting Payment
Through the Child Support Enforcement Program, Florida gives its Department of Revenue the authority to enforce child support orders in the event a parent becomes delinquent. Collection of support payments may occur through a number of means. For example, Florida law allows the Department of Revenue to garnish a delinquent parent's wages, take lottery winnings of $600 or more, seize bank accounts and intercept IRS tax refunds.
Imposition of Penalties
Beyond mere forcible collection of deliquent payments, Florida child support laws allow the Department of Revenue -- through its Child Support Enforcement Program -- to make life difficult for non-custodial parents who fail to meet their child support obligations. For example, the Department of Revenue may revoke or suspend a delinquent parent's driver's license and report any delinquency to credit bureaus. However, proper notice must be given to the delinquent parent before the Department of Motor Vehicles is contacted for a request to suspend or revoke a driver's license. A delinquent parent may avoid suspension or revocation of his driver's license if he makes the required child support payment within 20 days of receipt of the notice.