How to File for and Collect Child Support in Oklahoma
Updated: May 19, 2022
You may file for child support either through the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS), or through district court
If you file for child support through DHS, DHS can hold hearings and order a parent to pay child support
A child support order may be enforced as any other court order, and there can be harsh penalties for not paying
There are two ways to file for and collect child support in Oklahoma: you may file either in district court or through DHS. In district court, a judge may order child support in cases where custody and visitation of children are at issue. These cases include divorce, paternity, and guardianship cases. Elsewhere on this site, I discuss the services the Persaud Law Office provides for family law cases in district court. In this post, I will focus exclusively on child support cases in DHS.
DHS only has the authority to issue orders about child support. DHS may not make orders relating to custody or visitation. To obtain a custody or visitation order, you will have to file
a divorce, separation, or an annulment case (if you are married to the other parent) or
a paternity case (if you are not married to the other parent) or
a guardianship case (if you are a nonparent seeking custody.)
You must go to district court to file any of these cases.
How to File for DHS Child Support
To apply for child support through DHS, go to this website fill out the form.
What Happens When a Child Support Case is Opened?
First, DHS will refer the case to one of its district offices. If there has been a prior child support order filed in an Oklahoma district court, DHS will refer the case to the district office serving the county where the court order was entered. If there has been no prior child support order filed in an Oklahoma district court, DHS will refer the case to the office serving the county where you, the payee, live. If circumstances are appropriate, DHS may refer the case to an Indian tribal child support office.
The district office will then set a date for a hearing. DHS will send you notice of this hearing date; DHS will also serve notice of the hearing date on the non-custodial parent.
The Process of a Child Support Case in Oklahoma
The hearing will be held at the district office where the case is assigned. Some hearings are conducted by telephone or by videoconference. When you go to the hearing, there will be a judge present. This judge is not an elected or appointed state judge; rather, he is an “administrative law judge” who is employed by DHS. At the hearing, an attorney representing the state will be there. You may also choose to hire your own attorney and bring your attorney to the hearing. If you want an attorney, you should hire an attorney, because the state’s attorney does not represent you, but represents the state of Oklahoma. The noncustodial parent may also appear at the hearing, and may also be represented by an attorney. (Because you and the non-custodial parent may be in the same room, the situation may become tense. There are security officers at DHS facilities; if you feel that you may need additional security officers, notify DHS in advance.)
The rules of procedure for DHS child support proceedings can be found here, and here. Some of these rules are complicated, and can be difficult to navigate and understand. For a simple, short, explanation, free of legalese, about the way DHS administrative hearings are conducted, watch this video here:
At the hearing, each side will be allowed to present evidence. When all evidence has been presented, the judge will make a decision as to who is to pay child support, and how much. The judge will also determine if there is any child support arrearage, and how this arrearage is to be paid. If the noncustodial parent does not appear, the judge will grant you a default judgment, and order that the noncustodial parent must pay a certain amount of child support.
The judge will computer the amount of child support, according to a state-mandated formula. This formula takes into account many factors, including the income of each parent, the number of days the child spends with each parent, and child care expenses. To calculate the amount of child support you should receive, click here; this link directs you to the same program that Oklahoma child support judges use to determine the amount of child support.
After the judge determines the amount of child support, DHS will then file the child support order in district court. If there has been a previous district court order, DHS will file the order in the county where the previous court order was entered. If there has not been a previous district court order, DHS will file the order in the county where you live (or, if you live out of state, the county where the noncustodial parent lives.)
If you, or the non-custodial parent, or the state’s attorney, disagree with the administrative law judge’s ruling, then, the aggrieved party may appeal the case to district court. The appellant must file the appeal within thirty days of the administrative law judge’s decision. If there was a previous district court order, the appellant must file the appeal in the district court that entered the order. If there was no previous district court order, the appellant must file the appeal in the county where you live. If there was no previous district court order, and you live out of state, the appellant must the appeal in the county where the non-custodial parent lives.
On appeal, the district court will hear your case, and decide whether to affirm, or reverse, the administrative law judge’s ruling. If either party disagrees with the district court’s ruling on appeal, the party may appeal to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. To see how to appeal to the state Supreme Court, click here.
Enforcing a child support order
In all cases where DHS provides child support services, the payor must send the payments to DHS’s Centralized Support Registry. DHS will then forward those funds to you.
Most child support orders contain an “income assignment”; this is a provision stating that the non-custodial parent’s employer (or any other entity that owes money to the non-custodial parent) is to withhold the amount of child support from the non-custodial parent’s salary. The employer must then pay this amount to DHS’s Centralized Support Registry. DHS will then send this amount to you.
Once DHS files the child support order in district court, the order may be enforced just as any other court order. Penalties for non-payment include:
A court may garnish the non-custodial parent’s wages;
A court may fine the non-custodial parent, or sentence him to prison;
Until November 1, 2020, A court, or DHS, may revoke the non-custodial parent’s driver’s license, and any other professional license the non-custodial parent holds. After November 1, 2020, the state will not be able to revoke a driver's or professional license as punishment for nonpayment of child support; however, the state will still be allowed to revoke the recreational license of a parent who does not pay child support.
The Department of State may deny the non-custodial parent a passport.
For a detailed list of the possible punishments for not paying child support, click here and scroll down to “What Happens If You Don’t Pay Child Support?”
A Word of Caution – You May Find Yourself in Custody or Visitation Proceedings If You File for Child Support
It is true that in child support hearings, DHS cannot decide custody or visitation. However, many times, when a custodial parent files an application for DHS child support services, the non-custodial parent goes to district court and files for custody or visitation. So, if you file for child support through DHS, you may end up in a custody or visitation dispute as well.
Many parents can handle DHS child support cases without lawyers. However, if you are still puzzled about your rights and duties under the state child support system, it may be wise for you to consult an attorney. The Persaud Law Office is available to assist you in child support cases. Contact us today.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Defense. Photo by CPL Khalil Ross.