In child custody cases, one of the most common questions is “How is basic child support determined in Arkansas?” The law changed recently, so let’s recap a bit of history and highlight the changes.

That Was Then

Once upon a time in Arkansas, calculating child support was simple where one parent had custody (custodial parent) and the other had visitation (noncustodial parent).  The income of a custodial parent was normally not considered.  In a straightforward case, in which no deductions or deviations were allowed, the gross income of the noncustodial parent was determined, and child support was ordered based on that amount, pursuant to the Arkansas Family Support Chart.  For example, if the noncustodial parent’s countable income was $1,500, per the Chart, that parent was required to pay child support of $360 per month for one child.

This Is Now

Now, however, the new child support law in Arkansas considers the income of person receiving child support (the payee parent) in setting the amount of child support paid by the payor parent. The law assumes that the child receives the payee parent’s share of support while staying with that parent, and further assumes that the child stays with the payor parent fewer than 141 days per year. Let’s look at an example.

Calculating Child Support In Arkansas

For our example, Dad is the payor parent and Mom is the payee parent, and they have one child.  The parents’ gross monthly income is added together to determine their basic support obligation.  Dad’s child support amount is then calculated based on his pro rata obligation. Let’s say that Dad’s gross monthly income is $1,500 and Mom’s gross monthly income is $1,000, for a combined gross income is $2,500.  Per the new Monthly Family Support Chart, the parents’ total basic support obligation is $396, with no deductions or deviations.

Each parent’s pro rata obligation is a proportional share of the total support obligation and is calculated as a percentage of their combined income.  Mom’s pro rata share is 40% ($1,000/$2,500 = .40 or 40%).  Accordingly, Mom’s 40% share of the $396 basic support obligation is $158, which the child receives from living with Mom.  Similarly, Dad’s pro rata share is 60%, ($1,500/$2,500 = .60 or 60%).  Thus, Dad pays to 60% of the $396 basic support obligation, or $248 per month, to Mom.

Is That It?

Well, the amount of child support paid by the payor parent may be changed based on additional facts.  For example, Arkansas law recognizes that child support also includes such expenses as the child’s health insurance, extraordinary medical expenses (above $250 per year), and work-related child-care expenses.  Dad’s obligation will be similarly reduced to any extent that he pays for these additional child-rearing expenses.

Continuing with the same example, Dad pays a total of $100 for additional child rearing expenses.  He was obligated to pay only 60% of those expenses, or $60 ($100 x .60 = $60).  Mom’s share was 40% or $40 per month ($100 x. .40 = $40) but Mom paid none.  Therefore, Dad’s child support obligation would be reduced from $238 per month to $198, to account for the $40 that Mom didn’t pay ($238-$40 = $198).  So, once these expenses are deducted, Dad’s total/final amount of child support due is $198 per month.

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