Each parent has equal rights to manage the care of their child. As long as neither parent is or becomes a danger to the child’s health and overall safety, they retain equal rights and responsibilities. Not all parents are married or in a relationship; however, they still owe a duty of support to the children they share. Even when married parents may change their marital status by legal separation or divorce, their obligation to the children remains.
In legal separation and divorce cases, parents may agree on the terms and amount of child support. If they reach a child support agreement, a child support order does not have to be put in place by an Oregon legal or administrative agency. However, if parents are unable to agree, the state court system or the Oregon Child Support Program must get involved to set a child support order. A child support order may also occur between parents who were never married.
Oregon has a public policy that children should be financially and otherwise parentally supported. Legal separation, divorces and child custody cases deal with and resolve the issues of legal custody of children. One or both parents can be awarded custody. In the same proceedings, child support determinations are made. Typically the parent with custody receives child support from the other parent, even if parents have joint custody.
Child support cases may occur by filing a claim with the appropriate Oregon court or the Oregon Child Support Program. Paternity of the child or children in question must be established or, if known, recognized in the case. Under state law, a husband is presumed to be the father of a child born within a marriage. In the event of a paternity dispute, either parent may file a filiation proceeding to determine if the presumed father is the father. Once paternity is proven, child support determination is set based on child custody and the owing parent’s income.
Child support aids the custodial parent for the child’s food, shelter, housing and health care. The state’s child support guidelines determine the amount of child support. The factors used to calculate child support include:
- Each parent’s income
- Each parent’s share of child costs
- Each parent’s medical support obligation
The child support obligation of the paying parent must be paid per the agreement or order. Child support payments are typically arranged in monthly amounts. However, the support obligation does not last forever. A parent who pays child support must pay until the child reaches the age of majority, which is eighteen years old in Oregon. A minor child who is legally emancipated is also treated as being of the age of majority. Child support obligations may last until a child is twenty-one years old if enrolled in post-secondary education that meets the legal standard for continued financial support.
While a child support order remains in effect, circumstances may change for one or all parties to a child support case. A party may modify an existing child support order based on a significant change in circumstances. The change may be substantial in situations, such as:
- Increase or decrease in income
- Number of children involved has changed
- Change in the custodial parent