Regardless of which party is awarded custody of the children, child support will be an issue in the case. Unless the parents otherwise agree, the obligation to pay child support generally ends when a child turns 18 years of age, or if the child is attending college or vocational training reaches the age of 21.
Courts have little discretion in setting the amount of child support to be paid. In Oklahoma, the presumed amount of child support is established by state statutes and administrative rules. Those laws mandate “guideline” child support be calculated in any judgment or court order for the support of children, including divorce judgments, judgments of legal separation, and orders regarding child support modifications.
The main factors in determining “guideline” child support include each parent’s gross income from any source, a parent’s work-related daycare expenses, cost of health insurance for the child and the number of overnights each parent has with the child. If one party is not working, it will be assumed that he or she can earn at least a minimum wage, and, in some cases, an amount that is consistent with that party’s historic earnings(“imputing income”).
A child support order may be modified if the court finds that there has been a “material change of circumstances.” A “material change of circumstances” includes, but is not limited to, an increase or decrease in the needs of the child, an increase or decrease in the income of the parents, changes in annualized child care expenses, and changes in the cost of medical and dental insurance. A modification of child support requires a party to file a motion and go to court; a party cannot utilize “self-help” and simply reduce the amount of support they are paying due to a job loss or other financial difficulty.
A motion to reduce child support only allows for modification of the amount of support to be paid back to the date of filing the motion. The payor will have to continue to pay the previously ordered support amount until the parties agree on a new support amount, or the court modifies the amount of support paid. If the payor stops paying child support, the party risks being found in contempt of court.