Child support obligations are usually set after child custody determinations. Legal separation, divorce and child custody cases are where the judge or administrative decisionmaker decides which person will have legal custody. In most cases, one of the parents receives custody. Although Oregon law presumes that a legal parent is the best choice for the custody of a child, cases arise in which a nonparent may obtain legal custody of a child. The nonparent may be relative, such as a grandparent, sibling or stepparent. Child custody to a third party occurs after weighing certain factors, such as:
- The legal parents are unwilling or unable to care for the child.
- The child may suffer psychological, emotional or physical harm with the legal parents.
- The third-party has recently been the child’s primary caretaker.
The custodial parent or guardian may seek child support for the maintenance and care of the child’s needs. Child support is money that one parent pays to the other parent, guardian or sometimes the State. If neither parent has custody of their child, the custodial third party may obtain a child support order against both parents. As a result, each parent would have a child support obligation to pay to the third-party guardian.
Child support cases are ongoing cases until they end based on the terms of the orders or are dismissed by a court or agency. Parties to a child support action may continually go to court or the Oregon Child Support Program for modification and enforcement of child support. Until the child support case is dismissed or terminated, the case stays active.
A legal guardian or parent with a court order to get child support generally receive payments until the child reaches eighteen years old or is legally emancipated. Upon reaching the age of majority or being emancipated, the child support order is dismissed. However, a child support order may require the paying party to pay support beyond the age of majority if the child pursues a post-secondary education. The obligation ends, and the child support case is dismissed when the child turns twenty-one years old even if they have not finished their education.
Child support cases may also be dismissed before a child support amount is set. The child support jurisdiction is correct if the original legal separation or divorce case meets the jurisdictional requirements. For child custody cases, the petitioner must file the claim in the appropriate court. If the court is not in the correct jurisdiction, the custody case and the inclusive child support case is dismissed from the court where it was incorrectly filed.
Dismissal of a child support case may occur if it is established that the paternity is disestablished. For married parents, the husband is presumed the father unless testing proves otherwise. For unmarried parents, paternity must be proven by the presumed father declaring his paternity in writing or through a paternity test. If the father is determined not to be the child’s parent, the child support case may be dismissed.