Child Support in Arkansas – An Explanation
One of the most ask questions any family law attorney will be asked is how much child support is owed. In Arkansas, that question is largely controlled by Administrative Order Number 10 (“Admin. Order 10”). Through Admin. Order 10, the Arkansas courts have established guidelines and procedures for defining income and calculating appropriate child support payments.
These guidelines create a “rebuttable presumption” that the chart amount is the correct amount. This presumption can be overcome, and the child support amount can differ from the chart, where a parent can show a need based on the cost of food, shelter, utilities, clothing, medical or dental care, education, child care, standards living, recreation, and insurance. The presumption can also be overcome and the chart value be adjusted through evidence of other sources of income, the additional payment of insurances for the child’s benefit, the payment of existing medical expenses, the creation or maintenance of a trust fund for the child, and the amount of time the child spends with the paying parent.
Income is defined by Admin. Order 10 as any form of payment, periodic or otherwise, due to an individual . . . including wages, salaries, commissions, bonuses, worker’s compensation, disability, pension, retirement, or interest. This payment is reduced by federal and state taxes, social security, Medicare, and railroad retirement withholdings, medical insurance for dependent children, and presently paid child support for other children. Whatever is left over is what the chart uses to calculate the support owed.
Income should be calculated from the largest time period you can find. For example, if your income hasn’t changed from last year, you should pull last year’s tax return to determine an annual average. This is especially important in jobs which have seasonal ups and downs for base income, hours worked, and commissions earned. If you have changed jobs recently or have received an increase or decrease in pay recently, you should base your income on as many pay stubs as are available since your pay changed.
Once you have determined the average amount of money you earn in a pay period, you can look to the charts created by Admin. Order 10. There are charts for weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly, and monthly pay periods; determine which is applicable for you. Once you have located the correct chart, you will see that income-per-pay-period is listed in its own column. Next to your pay column will be different amounts which depend on the number of children you are going to be paying child support. You may not find the exact amount you are paid, as the table only shows evenly distributed increments. You should find the pay amount immediately below what you earn and use that number.
Example: You will be paying child support for one child. Your pay stubs show that you make an average of $315.00 per week. You locate the Weekly Family Support Chart and look down column one (“Payor Net Weekly Income”) to find $315.00. The chart shows $310.00 and $320.00, but not $315.00, so you round down to $310.00. You look under the column for “One Child” and see that the chart has set your child support at $76.00 per week. This is the number presumed to be appropriate for you to pay under Arkansas law.
If you earn more income than is shown on the chart, you can follow this mathematical formula:
The Maximum Chart Amount for your pay period, plus the amount you make over the Maximum Chart Amount MULTIPLIED BY:
One Child: 15%
Two Children: 21%
Three Children: 25%
Four Children: 28%
Five Children: 30%
Six Children: 32%
Example: You will be paying child support for two children. Your tax return from last year shows that you make an average of $1,500.00 per week. The Maximum Weekly Chart amount is $1,000.00. You take the maximum amount on the chart ($1,000.00, for two children, equals $213.00 per week), and then you add to that the remainder of your earnings as multiplied by the % modifier for two children ($500.00 x 21% = $105.00). $213.00 + $105.00 = $318.00 child support per week.
If you believe that this number is too low, you are free to agree to pay more. If you believe this number is too high because of other circumstances, you need to speak with an attorney about whether you might qualify for one of the factors which overcome the presumption that the chart is the appropriate amount of support.
If you have any questions about child support, including what you may owe or what your spouse may owe to your children, do not hesitate to contact Clarke Mixon at Owens, Mixon & Gramling; 1-870-336-6505.