Help! My Child Support Is Too Much!
You’ve been ordered to pay child support, and you think your child support is too high. Or, you’ve been paying child support on several children, and one of the children has turned eighteen, and you want to reduce the child support because you’re no longer obligated to support the eighteen-year-old child. What can you do?
First, make sure you know the correct amount of child support you should be paying
You may be paying more in child support than you want to pay, but that doesn’t mean that the child support amount is legally incorrect.
In Oklahoma, courts, and DHS, are required to determine the amount of child support, under state-prescribed guidelines. The guidelines difficult and complicated. Data that is to be computed includes:
The number of children;
The number of days each parent spends with each child;
The gross income of each parent. (There is a statute that tells precisely how courts are to calculate gross income. There are certain types of income – such as public assistance from the government – that is excluded when calculating gross income. If it is unclear how much gross income a parent has – or if it appears that a parent has a lifestyle inconsistent with the gross income he or she claims – then the court may look at the parent’s lifestyle and calculate gross income based on what the parent’s lifestyle looks like.)
These factors, however, are not the only considerations in determining the amount of child support. There are a number of other relevant considerations, which are too many to list in a blog post of this length. To see the state statutes on how child support is to be computed, click here. To see a website where you can enter relevant data and determine the proper amount of child support, click here.
The court (or DHS) must use the guidelines to calculate the legal amount of child support in every child custody case. The court or DHS must order a parent to pay the child support consistent with the guidelines, unless the court or DHS makes specific findings that deviation from the guidelines is in the best interests of the child.
If you need help in determining the proper amount of child support, or if you are not sure whether you are paying the proper amount of child support, consult an attorney.
You may not reduce the amount of child support yourself
If you are paying more child support than you should be paying, under the law, you may not simply decide that you will pay less. You must first file a motion to modify, and ask a court, or DHS, to change the amount of child support. You may not reduce the amount of child support you pay, until a court or DHS rules that you may pay less. If you pay less child support than was ordered, a court may hold you in contempt, and you could possibly serve jail time.
It is particularly important to remember that you may not reduce the amount of child support you are paying, when one of the children turns eighteen. Even after a child turns eighteen, and you are no longer obligated to support that particular child, you still must pay the same amount of child support until a court orders otherwise. You may file a motion to modify child support, and, as grounds for your motion to modify, you may argue that the court should reduce your child support because a child has turned eighteen. However, you will still have to wait for the court to actually rule that your child support is to be reduced, before you can pay a lower amount.
If all if your children have turned eighteen, then, you may cease to pay child support, unless:
A child is attending high school, and is under 20 years old, or
A child is disabled, and the disability (or the cause of the disability) existed before the child’s eighteenth birthday, and a court has ordered a parent to pay child support for the disabled child. If a child is disabled, a court may order a parent to pay child support indefinitely.
Filing a motion to modify child support
If you believe that you are entitled to a reduction in the child support you are paying, file a motion to modify child support. File this motion either in court, or with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. Because the process of drafting a motion to modify is complicated, you will probably need an attorney to help to draft the motion.
After you file a motion to modify, you must have the motion served on the other parent. If the other parent agrees to the change you ask for, then, your child support will be reduced, as soon as a judge (in either a court or a DHS tribunal) approves the agreement.
If the other parent does not agree to the change you ask for, then, the judge will hold a hearing. At the hearing, both you, and the other parent, may have attorneys represent you. Both you and the other parent may also present evidence and call witnesses. At the hearing, the judge will then decide how much (if any) child support you are to pay. If you have been paying too much child support in the past, the judge may give you credit for the excess amount of child support you have paid, and, in order to offset the amount, the judge may order you to pay less child support than you normally would be required to pay.
If you do not agree to the judge’s ruling on child support, you may appeal the case to a higher court. Click here to see how to appeal a case.
Don’t get left in the cold
Child support is necessary for families and children to have the provisions they need. However, no parent should be forced to pay more child support than is actually necessary. If you believe that you are paying more child support than is legally required, speak to an attorney today. Don’t get left in the cold!