Your Portland Child Support Case: The Basics

Your last paycheck went to pay your son’s ER bill after a mishap during a hike at Tryon Creek State Park. The one before that quickly disappeared taking your daughter back-to-school shopping at Lloyd Center. You know the holidays will be here soon, along with your children’s wishlists. Raising children can be stressful and expensive, but doing it as a single parent can sometimes seem overwhelming. You wonder whether you’ll ever catch a financial break. Fortunately, Oregon child support law says you don’t have to bear the cost of raising your children alone. Children have the right to be financially cared for by both parents, even if their parents were never married or are not living together.

FindLaw created this article to help you understand some of the basic child support laws in Portland.

Who Pays Child Support?

Generally, one parent will make payments to the other parent to help pay for the food, housing, clothing, medical care, childcare, education, and other expenses of a child.

In most cases, the parent with less physical custody time (non-custodial parent) will pay child support to the parent with the majority of physical custody time (custodial parent). Even when parents have joint legal custody and equal physical custody time, one parent may still have to pay child support to the other parent. In that circumstance, the parent with a higher income usually must pay support.

How Do I Get Child Support Orders?

You can get child support orders in Portland as part of the following types of family law cases:

  • A divorce case (if you are married to the child’s other parent);
  • A child custody case (whether or not you were ever married to the child’s other parent); or
  • A paternity action.

If you do not have an ongoing family law case, you can apply for child support through the Child Support Program (CSP), which is a partnership between the Oregon Department of Justice and the local District Attorney’s Office.

Alternately, if your child is currently receiving or has previously received public assistance (Temporary Assistance For Needy Families or Medicaid), or is in foster care or the Oregon Youth Authority, the Department of Justice, Division of Child Support Services will open a case.

Can I Create an Enforceable Child Support Order By Agreement?

No. Parents can reach an agreement about child support, but it is not legally enforceable until a judge or CSP staff signs it as a court order.

How Long Must Child Support be Paid?

In Portland, a child is typically entitled to support until the age of 18. A court or CSP can order support payments extended until the child reaches the age of 21 if the child is attending school. In situations where the child is under the age of 18 but is married, in the military, or legally emancipated, a parent may request the judge terminate support.

What are the Steps for Getting Child Support Orders Through CSP?

Step One: Complete an application.

You can deliver the completed application to 1120 SW 5th Ave, Suite 1530 in Portland or mail it to CSP, 4600 25th Ave NE, Suite 180, Salem, Oregon 97301.

Once CSP receives the application, it will determine whether it is necessary to establish paternity or locate the other parent.

Step Two: Review the proposed orders.

CSP will look the finances of both parents to create proposed child support orders. Proposed orders are based on state rules called Guidelines. The Guidelines use a formula to calculate support based on the income of both parents, the size of the family, physical custody time, and other factors. Both parents receive copies of the proposed orders.

Parents can use the child support calculator to estimate child support payments.

Step Three: Contact CSP, if necessary.

Parents have 20 days to contact CSP if they need to correct information and have the proposed orders changed. If a parent disagrees with the orders proposed by CSP, he or she has 30 days to request a child support hearing with an administrative law judge.

If neither parent contacts CSP, the proposed orders will be finalized 24 days after both parents receive copies.

Step Four: Attend the hearing with the administrative law judge.

If the parent who requested the hearing does not show up, the judge may dismiss the hearing and make the proposed orders final. If the other parent is absent, the judge may make a decision based on the testimony of parent who requested the hearing.

Judges rarely order a support amount that differs from the Guidelines. Still, they may consider any unique circumstances that justify a different calculation.

Final orders will be mailed to both parents following the hearing. Parents have the right to file an appeal within 60 days.

What if the Non-Custodial Parent Refuses to Pay Child Support?

Child support orders are generally paid by direct deductions from the non-custodial parent’s paycheck. If a non-custodial parent fails to pay, CSP has several methods of enforcement available, including the following:

  • Intercepting federal or state tax refunds and other government payments;
  • Filing for a lien against property owned by the non-custodial parent in Oregon;
  • Seizing sources of income such as bank accounts, lottery winnings, insurance settlements, or inheritance;
  • Suspending driver’s, professional, or recreational licenses;
  • Restricting a passport;
  • Referring the non-custodial parent to credit reporting agencies; or
  • Requesting contempt proceedings where the judge can impose a jail sentence.

How Can I Get Changes to My Child Support Orders?

Either parent may ask CSP to review a support order after 35 months or if there has been a significant change in circumstances, such as the non-custodial parent losing his or her job.

Modifications may increase or decrease the support amount and the new support orders will also be based on the child support Guidelines.

If both parents do not agree to the changes, either can request a hearing with an administrative law judge.

Where Can I Go for Help with My Child Support Case?

Child support cases can be complex and emotionally difficult, particularly if they are part of a divorce judgment. To understand your support rights and obligations you may consider consulting an experienced family law attorney in the Portland area. You can also check this list of resources in Multnomah County, which includes low-cost legal services.

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