Although most people think of child support in terms of divorce, parenting agreements, and all the other considerations that come with family law, the fact is that every child is entitled to receive financial support from their parents. This presumption applies to all minor children, regardless of whether their parents remain in a married relationship, live together while unmarried, or are separated or divorced.
Oklahoma Child Support Overview
Child support is just one part of a parent’s responsibility to protect and provide for their children and is fulfilled by custodial parents when they provide food, shelter, education, clothing, and other necessities while the children are within the home. When parents live separately, however, the state of Oklahoma uses statutory guidelines to determine the amount of financial support provided by each parent.
Generally speaking, Oklahoma courts utilize a formula to calculate each parent’s contribution to the family’s gross income, the funds necessary to support any children each month, and the percentage each parent must contribute to that support. For the non-custodial parent, child support is set as a monthly payment, payable to the custodial parent. The child support order remains in place until the child turns 18—the age of majority in Oklahoma—and can only be halted or modified before that date by an official petition.
What Happens When You Lose Your Job?
Loss of a job is usually considered a significant change in circumstances that can affect your ability to pay child support in the original amount dictated by the child support order. If you are having difficulty making your monthly child support payments, consult with an Oklahoma City child support lawyer to learn whether you could benefit from filing a petition for modification. Your lawyer will help you gather evidence regarding your employment situation, current income, and any unemployment benefits you are receiving to include in your case.
If Oklahoma courts determine that you are experiencing financial hardship severe enough to impact your ability to pay child support, a judge may modify your obligation. A modification can help ensure you are paying an amount that reflects your current income and can help keep you from becoming delinquent on your child support payments. However, keep in mind that your obligations can change again once you find employment.
Can Oklahoma Deduct Child Support From Unemployment Benefits?
If you do not pursue a child support modification to reduce your obligation and find yourself unable to complete your monthly child support payments, the state of Oklahoma can deduct the amount you owe from several sources, including wage withholdings, workers’ compensation benefits, retirement benefits, and unemployment benefits. Depending on the amount you owe, the state can withhold as much as half of an unemployment benefits check for unpaid child support.
Also, it is important to keep in mind that Oklahoma unemployment benefits awarded after a job loss are calculated based on the income you received before you lost your job. However, the state does not consider your monthly expenses in either your unemployment or child support calculations. Therefore, your child support obligation will not serve to increase your unemployment benefits.
Oklahoma Can Withhold Child Support Even If You Are Not Delinquent
While wage garnishment and other forcible means of deducting child support payments are generally reserved for delinquent parents in arrears of their child support obligation, the recent COVID-19 pandemic has brought a unique situation to light. As hundreds of thousands of Oklahoma residents experienced unemployment benefits for the first time, many were shocked to learn that half of their expected benefit was missing. According to Oklahoma state law, Oklahoma Department of Human Services must take child support payments out of parent unemployment benefits, even if they are current on payments.
As a result, thousands of people paid regular child support payments in addition to the amount garnished from unemployment benefits. Human Services is in the process of refunding those who made double payments but says it is obligated to continue withholding funds from unemployment benefits even as it sends out refunds.
Contact an Oklahoma City Child Support Lawyer
Whether you are experiencing unemployment for the first time or have been affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, you must pursue a child support modification to ensure you can continue meeting your child support obligation. As a skilled Oklahoma City family law firm, the attorneys at Stange Law Firm can help you provide the necessary documentation to modify support or help you petition for a reduction in payments to offset the amount withheld from your unemployment benefits.
If you would like more information regarding child support modification or unemployment benefits, schedule a consultation to discuss your unique case. Reach out online or call (855) 055-0595 at your earliest convenience.