Children in the United States in different home environments. Some children live with both of their natural or adopted parents. Other kids may live with one of their parents and a stepparent. Households sometimes consist of single mothers or fathers with their children. Although it is common for children to have parents as their caretakers, circumstances may arise in which grandparents, extended family members, or non-relatives are the parental figures.
In 2021, The United States had 11 million single-parent households with children under eighteen. Of the total number of single parents, mothers made up 80 percent of single parents; 20 percent are single fathers.
Both parents have a legal duty to support their children. They are responsible for their child’s expenses. They also must provide for their child’s education, health care, shelter, food and other necessities.
When parents separate, divorce or break up, they still have obligations to their child. During such situations, one or both parents may seek custody of the child. The court establishes the custody arrangement in a separation or divorce case. For unmarried parents, a parent can file a suit solely to determine child custody, support, and visitation.
Oregon law has two types of custody arrangements – joint and sole custody. The court can only order joint custody if both parents agree. If the parties disagree, the judge must determine which parent receives sole custody of the child. If the parents want a joint custody arrangement, the court cannot go against their choice by ordering sole custody.
Once a court decides on the custody arrangement, the judge must determine the child support terms. Child support is the money and benefits one parent pays the other parent to provide for the child’s needs. The person who pays child support is the obligor. The party receiving the payments is the obligee. The United States Census Bureau 2022 report shows that in 2017, two-thirds of parents receiving child support received it regularly. The other one-third receive partial or irregular payments.
The Oregon Child Support Guidelines determine the amount of child support. It factors in the incomes of both parents as well as the time spent with each parent, child care, and healthcare benefits. Oregon also has a calculator based on the guidelines, which estimates the amount the obligor has to pay.
The child support order sets forth the final determinations, such as the amount of support and when the payment is due. The judge signs the order, and it goes into effect.
A parent ordered to pay child support must follow all provisions of the support order.
Parents cannot change child support terms by themselves. However, a parent can request a modification of the child support order. The two types of child support modification are administrative and judicial.
A parent can seek an administrative modification of child support with the Oregon Child Support Program for the following reasons:
- Periodic review if the entrance or last modification of the order occurred at least 35 months prior; or
- A substantial change of circumstances happened
The periodic review is the proceeding to modify an existing child support order. An administrator may perform a mandatory periodic review. A parent can request a periodic review proceeding to review or modify the order. The parent must submit the request in writing. The administrator gives both parents written notice of the review. They have 30 days to provide information that may assist in calculating the modified child support.
Oregon Administrative Rules set a time limit for modifying the existing support order. The administrator must complete the modification within 180 days of:
- Receipt of the written request for review or modification
- Initiation of the mandatory periodic review; or
- Locating the non-requesting parties
A request for child support modification based on a substantial change of circumstances occurs when:
- Oregon has jurisdiction to hear the claim;
- The administrator makes a motion to modify or receives a request for modification on this basis at least 60 days after the date of the existing order;
- The request meet the criteria for substantial change in circumstances; and
- The requesting party submits a written request, information supporting the substantial change in circumstances, and a completed Uniform Income and Expense Statement or Uniform Support Petition
Under Oregon law, a substantial change of circumstances includes:
- A change in a written parenting time or order;
- Change in financial or household circumstances since the signing of the existing final support order
- The previous order did not consider specific benefits due to or received by the child
- Changes to the child’s needs
- Additions or changes necessary for the child medical support provisions
- Change in the physical custody of the child
- The need to add or remove a child from the support order
- A child aged 18 to 20 years old does not qualify for support for a child attending school
For a substantial change in circumstances modification, the administrator must notify the parties in writing and give them 30 days to submit any information that could affect the child support calculation.
Child support modifications also can occur through the court. In a judicial modification, a parent seeking modification can file a motion in the appropriate Oregon circuit court. The motion states what the filer wants. Like the administrative process, judicial modification requires:
- A showing of a substantial change in circumstances;
- Change in custody; or
- Change in the parenting plan
The court reviews the motion to change support. If the judge decides to modify child support, he signs a Supplemental Judgement. The judgment consists of the changes of the previous order and sets forth the new child support terms.