Child Support Guidelines FAQs



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I don’t know the other parent’s income. What should I use?

When establishing or modifying a support order, both parents are required to provide income information. You may want to estimate support before you request to establish or modify an order by using the Oregon Child Support Guidelines Calculator. If you know the other parent’s occupation, you can get information about average employment levels and wages by region at the Oregon Employment Department’s website. If you don’t know the other parent’s wage or occupation, use full-time minimum wage for the state where they live.

What if a parent chooses not to work or is underemployed?

When a parent is earning less than they could, the parent may be assessed “potential income.” Potential income is what the parent could be earning based on their work history, qualifications, education, health, and other relevant factors considering job opportunities and earning levels in the community where they live.

Can I use my gross income from last year’s taxes?

For many people, the wages reported by the employer in Box 1 of the IRS W-2 form are an accurate report of gross income. However, there are several factors to consider.

  • Income for child support purposes includes items that are excluded for income tax purposes, such as gifts and inheritances. You may have employee benefits—such as a company car, house, or phone—that could be counted as income if those benefits reduce living expenses. You should also include investment income.
  • If last year’s taxable income is an accurate reflection of your current income, it may be useful as proof of income for child support.
  • If your income varies from year to year, you might be able to use an average of prior years’ tax returns to determine current income.
  • If you have changed jobs or are at a different rate of pay, prior years’ income may not reflect your current income.
  • Certain voluntary payroll deductions—such as HSA, dependent care FSA, or non-mandatory retirement contributions—may not be taxed but are considered income for child support calculations.
  • Income for child support purposes can include both actual and potential income. If you are earning at your full potential, the gross income from your tax return might be an accurate reflection of your current income.
  • If you voluntarily left a lucrative position to start an unprofitable business or lower-paid job, your taxable income is only one factor used to determine your income for child support calculations.
  • Determining self-employment and business income is fact-specific and more complicated than can be fully addressed here.
    • The basic computation is: gross income, minus cost of goods sold, minus ordinary and necessary expenses needed for business operation, minus one-half of the self-employment tax.
    • Certain items commonly considered in determining income for tax purposes are excluded: accelerated depreciation (straight-line depreciation may be considered), investment tax credits, or other excessive expenses.
    • Consider talking to an attorney or accountant.

Does a spouse’s income count?

The guideline support amount is based only on the income of the parents, not their spouses.

If either parent chooses not to work at all or at their full earning potential because of a spouse’s income, there are two options:

  1. The parent’s income may be based on “potential” income—the amount they would earn if they were working full-time or in their field of training.
  2. The guideline support amount can be challenged or “rebutted.” The guideline calculation for the child support amount is presumed to be “just and appropriate.” However, for various reasons—such as a parent voluntarily not working—the proposed guideline support amount may not appropriately reflect the situation. The court or the Oregon Child Support Program can accept evidence that rebuts the presumed child support amount—such as the financial advantage from the income of a spouse—and adjust to a just and appropriate amount.

Health Insurance and Cash Medical Support

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How much does a parent have to pay for their children’s health insurance?

The cost of private health care coverage is considered reasonable if it is no more than four percent of the parents’ combined incomes.

Either parent can be required to pay the total cost, and the parent not providing coverage will contribute to the cost through an adjustment to the support obligation.

If neither parent has health insurance available, the court can order cash medical support or enter a finding specifying why cash medical should not be ordered.

A parent whose income is below minimum wage may not be ordered to pay for or contribute to the cost of health insurance or cash medical support. If health insurance is not available and cash medical support is not ordered, the reasons must be explained in the order.

What if a parent currently provides insurance, but the cost is more than four percent of both parents' combined incomes?

A court may order the parents to provide coverage if the coverage is reasonable in cost. In some cases, “compelling factors” may support a finding that coverage at a cost greater than four percent is reasonable. Examples of factors that may be considered for health insurance to be ordered at a cost more than four percent of the parents’ combined incomes are:

  • The child has a chronic health condition or a frequent need for medical care.
  • The parents agree to continue coverage despite the cost.
  • The cost of the coverage is only slightly over four percent.

If the available coverage is not reasonable in cost, it cannot be divided between the parents. Therefore, a parent may have to pay cash medical support.

Both parents have coverage available for the child. Who decides which coverage to provide? Do both parents have to provide?

When both parents have appropriate coverage available, the parent with more parenting time decides which coverage will be ordered. Dual coverage is not required. If the parents’ combined coverage is reasonable in cost, and the parents agree, dual coverage may be ordered. This means parents share the cost of both policies.

Parenting Time Credit

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I have 125 overnights, which is 34.24 percent of the parenting time. Why is my parenting time credit percentage only 23.65 percent?

The parenting time credit recognizes that when one parent has most of the parenting time, the bulk of the expenses typically fall on that parent. As parenting time approaches equal, the parents are more likely to share expenses evenly. However, some expenses—such as housing—are duplicated in a shared parenting situation. As a result, the parenting time credit percentage is higher than the actual parenting time percentage when a parent has most of the parenting time and is lower than the parenting time percentage when the parent has limited parenting time.

The following chart shows the parenting time credit: lower levels of parenting time result in little credit. Equal parenting time results in equal credit. A parent with most of the parenting

Why does the calculator say I have to pay when I am the custodial parent with 200 overnights or 54.79 percent of the parenting time?

There are two issues.

  1. Legal custody is not a factor in the child support calculation and does not determine who owes support.
  2. The child support obligation is based on income and is then reduced (credited) depending on the number of overnights. If a parent’s percentage of the combined income is greater than the percentage of their parenting time credit, that parent will owe support. The cost of health insurance and childcare also affect the determination of which parent pays support. Because the parenting time credit goes disproportionately to the parent with more parenting time, this situation occurs only when there is a significant income imbalance or when parenting time amounts are very close.

Do I get parenting time credit for a Child Attending School that lives with me?

Maybe. You can receive a parenting time credit only if the Child Attending School is 18 years old, living with you, and attending high school. Otherwise, neither parent receives parenting time credit.

Where Can I Get Help?

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