New Child Support Order in Arkansas

There is a new Child Support Order in Arkansas. The way Arkansas calculates child support has changed!

Previous Child Support Calculation

In Arkansas, the way child support is calculated is governed by Administrative Order No. 10. Previously, child support payments were calculated based solely on the income of the non-custodial parent. The calculation did not consider the income of the custodial parent. The custodial parent being the parent that has the child(ren) the majority of the time and the non-custodial parent being the other parent. This method is often referred to as the percent of income method. Arkansas is one of the very few states that still relied on this method. There is a nationwide trend of states changing over to a method that considers both parents’ income.

New Child Support Order

In April of 2019 the Arkansas General Assembly passed An Act to Revise the Family Support Chart to Reflect Payor and Recipient Income. Under this Act, Arkansas will calculate child support payments based on both parents’ income, also known as the income shares model. The Act mandated that a committee revise the family support chart to reflect these changes on or before March 1, 2020. On December 12, 2019, the Supreme Court of Arkansas issued a per curiam opinion, In Re Proposed Amendments to Administrative Order No. 10, in which the Court revealed the proposed changes to Administrative Order No. 10. The proposed changes to Administrative Order No. 10 were open for comment until January 31, 2020. The revised Administrative Order No. 10 was issued by the Supreme Court of Arkansas in a per curium opinion, In Re Implementation of the Revised Administrative Order No. 10, on April 2, 2020.

Income Shares Model

The Court’s changes to the child support guidelines are based on the Income Shares Model, developed by the Child Support Guidelines Project of the National Center for State Courts. The Income Shares Model is based on the concept that children should receive the same proportion of parental income that they would have received had the parents lived together and shared financial resources. Under the income shares model, a child support obligation is calculated using the income of the custodial as well as the non-custodial parent.

The court first determines how much of your combined incomes your child needs to meet basic costs. For example, the revised Administrative Order No. 10 dictates that if the custodial and non-custodial parents earn a combined $3,000 monthly and if you have one child, $469.00 should be devoted to him or her. The next step is to determine how much each of the parents contribute to that $3,000. If the you earn $2,000 and the custodial parent earns $1,000, you’re responsible for 66.66 percent of the $469.00 figure and the custodial parent is responsible for 33.33 percent. The non-custodial parent makes a cash contribution to the custodial parent – child support – and the custodial parent pays her or his percentage directly toward the children’s needs. Under the old Administrative Order No. 10 the non-custodial parent would have been responsible for the entire $469.00 in the above example.

The changes also include a method of calculating support in joint custody cases to provide uniformity across the state. In cases of joint or shared custody, where both parents have responsibility of the child(ren) for at least 141 overnights per calendar year, the court may consider the time spent by the child(ren) with the obligated party as a basis for adjusting the child-support amount. In particular, in deciding whether to adjust child support, the court should consider the presence and amount of disparity between the income of the parties, giving more weight to those disparities in the parties’ income of less than 20% and considering which parent is responsible for the majority of the expenses, such as routine clothing costs, costs for extracurricular activities, school supplies, and any other similar fixed expenses.

Modification of Existing Child Support Obligations

Normally, an Arkansas Court will not change a non-custodial parent’s child support obligation unless there has been a material change of circumstances. Arkansas law says that a change of 20% or $100 in income is a material change that will allow a modification of your child support obligation.

However, in the Court’s changes to the child support guidelines the Court has stated that an inconsistency between an existing child-support award and the amount of child support that results from applying the Family Support Chart based on the Income Shares Model shall be a material change of circumstances sufficient to support a petition to modify child support with some exceptions. All of this meaning that the revised Administrative Order No. 10 gives many people the opportunity to modify their child support obligations to better fit their situation.

If you want to modify child support payments, you need to hire a family lawyer who can ask the court to change child support. If your income goes down and you should be paying less child support, it’s important to hire an attorney quickly.