How to Use the Oregon Child Support Calculator

In Oregon child support is based on a formula.  You plug in the numbers, press a button, and the calculator produces the presumptively correct amount of child support.  You can agree to use a different number if both people are willing to do so.  However, in the absence of some other agreement agreement, the number produced by the calculator is the number that will be used.

Here is an overview of how to use the Oregon Child Support Calculator:

Income.  Income is the first and most important factor in the child support calculator.  In Oregon, “income” is defined very broadly and includes almost any form of money you receive (e.g., wages, bonuses, stipends, overtime, etc.).  There may be exceptions to this depending on your circumstances, but generally speaking all income is included.

Per Oregon law, if someone is not working they are usually still “imputed” minimum wage.  This basically means that the we pretend they are earning minimum wage even if they are not actually earning that amount.  There are a few exceptions to this rule, including disability of a party.  If someone is unable to work due to disability they typically are not imputed minimum wage.

Sometimes people are imputed income based on what they could be earning even if they are not currently earning that much.  This is similar to being imputed minimum wage, but slightly different.  For example, if someone has always earned $80,000 and then they are laid off but they are confident they will regain similar employment, they might be imputed $80,000 even though they aren’t currently earning that much.  Imputed income is definitely not a straightforward or easy topic.  Your mediator or attorney can talk to you more about this if it is relevant to your situation.

Spousal Support.  The transfer of spousal support is a factor in the child support calculator.  If someone pays spousal support to the other party, the calculator deducts that income from the payor (the person paying) and adds it to the income of the recipient.  In other words, you don’t have to pay child support based on money that you have to transfer as spousal support, BUT, the recipient receives slightly less child support due to receiving spousal support.

For example, if Party A earns $6,000, Party B earns $3,000 and Party A pays $750 per month in spousal support, then the calculator treats this as Party A earning $5,250 and Party B earning $3,750 for purposes of the support calculation.

Union Dues.  Union dues are a deduction off of your income in the child support calculation.  For example, if you earn $4,000 per month and pay $75 per month in union dues, the calculator treats you as earning $3,925.  In other words, you don’t have to pay child support based on money that you have to pay in union dues.

Parenting Plan.  A significant factor in the calculation is something called the “parenting time credit.”  The parenting time credit is a reduction in child support based on the number of overnights each parent spends with the children.  The idea is that if one parent has the children more, they will incur more costs directly on behalf of the children than if they had the children less.  For example, if you have the children half of the time, you are going to spend more on their food, day-to-day needs, etc., then if you only have them one day per week.  However, a 50/50 parenting plan does not necessarily mean there will be no child support.  If there is a disparity in comes with a 50/50 plan, you can still expect that there will be at least some amount of child support (although the other factors mentioned also play a role in determining this).

Note: The entry for parenting time credit is the number of overnights a child is expected to spend with each parent.  If there is a 50/50 parenting plan then you enter 182.5 overnights.

Cost of Parental Health Insurance.  The cost of a parent’s own health insurance just for that parent is a factor in the calculation.  This is similar to union dues mentioned above in that you do not pay child support based on dollars that you have to spend for health insurance premiums (but not other out-of-pocket medical expenses).  Both parents’ health insurance premiums are factored in, even if only one parent is providing health insurance for the children.  If you aren’t sure of the cost just for your own health insurance, ask HR to provide you a breakdown.  You will want to know the “employee only” cost.

Cost of Children’s Health Insurance.  The cost of health insurance just to cover the children is also a factor in the support calculator.  This is treated differently than the cost of a parent’s health insurance.  Instead of being a deduction off of your income, the cost of children’s health insurance is split between the parties proportionate to their incomes.  What this ends up meaning is that if a parent pays child support and provides health insurance (unless it is free), then that parent’s child support obligation will be reduced by the other parent’s proportionate share of the health insurance.  If a parent is receiving child support and provides health insurance for the children (unless it is free), then that parent’s child support will go up by an amount equal to the other parent’s proportionate share of the health insurance.  This means that both parents end up contributing to the cost of health insurance premiums even if only one parent is paying the premium out-of-pocket.

If you cover the children on your health insurance, the cost just for the children can be determined by subtracting the “employee only” cost from the “employee plus dependents” cost.  For example, if the “employee only” cost is $100 and the “employee plus dependents” cost is $220, then the cost just for the children is $120 ($220 – $100).

Note: Depending on your plan there may be a distinction between “employee plus family” and “employee plus dependents.”  If you currently cover your spouse, you might pay the “employee plus family” rate.  After the divorce you will no longer be able to cover your ex-spouse, so just make sure you are using the right figures when you are calculating the cost just for a parent vs. the cost just for the children.

Note: If you cannot distinguish between the cost for a parent and the cost for the children, the rule is that you prorate the amount per personFor example, if the total cost is $300 and that covers you and two children, then the cost just for you is $100 and the cost for the children is $200.  Again, this only applies if you cannot find information about the difference in cost for employee only and dependents.

Childcare.  The cost of work-related or school-related childcare is a factor in the child support calculation.  The cost of childcare is treated just like the cost of a child’s health insurance premiums, i.e., it is split proportionate to the parties’ incomes.  So, if one parent pays all of the childcare, child support will be automatically adjusted so that both parents end up contributing to the cost even though only one person is paying for it.

Note: Childcare to go on a social outing is paid by the person who needs it and isn’t factored into the calculation.

Note: Due to the fact that childcare fluctuates over time, people will often exclude childcare from the child support calculation and instead split the cost proportionate to their incomes.  Doing this allows you to address the cost of childcare without having to rerun the child support calculation every time childcare changes.

Rebuttal Factors.  The child support calculator produces the amount that will apply unless there is a really good reason that there should be an adjustment to the amount.  There are a number of “rebuttal factors” that can be applied to either increase or decrease child support.  These usually don’t apply unless there is a very compelling reason to change child support.  A good example of a situation where a rebuttal factor is appropriate is if you have a child with special needs who requires significant additional costs for his or her care.  There are many rebuttal factors and a description of them is beyond the scope of this article.  They are mentioned here only so that you know that they exist.

Note: As a practical matter, you can change child support as long as you both agree (and the change is within reason) even if there is not necessarily an applicable rebuttal factor.  You should discuss his further with your mediator or attorney if you think this may come up in your situation.

Agreed Upon Changes.  Parties can agree to either increase or decrease child support within 15% as long as they both agree to do so and without the need to prove a rebuttal factor.  Parties do this for a variety of reasons, including that they want to make child support a round number.  For example, if child support is $198, you could agree to increase it or decrease it by $29.70; parents will often round up $2 so that it is $200.

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Here is a link to the Oregon Child Support Calculator: https://justice.oregon.gov/guidelines/

Feel free to try and run your own ballpark calculations.  But if you can’t figure it out, don’t worry about it – that’s what mediation is for.  Also, there is plenty of room for disagreement and/or adjustment in some of these factors (particularly income).  So again, don’t feel like you have to get it all figured out yourself.

The Basics of Health Insurance in Oregon Divorce

Every Oregon divorce or custody case that involves children must include a provision about 1) who is going to cover the children on health insurance, and 2) how unreimbursed medical expenses are going to be paid for.  It can also address how parents’ health insurance is going to be handled, although that is not required.  Here is an overview of important concepts to keep in mind when going through a divorce or custody case:

Health Insurance for Children.  Every judgment must require that at least one parent provides health insurance for the children, even if the children do not currently have health insurance.  The children can be double-covered, but they don’t have to be.

Oregon Health Plan.  If the children are covered on the Oregon Health Plan, the judgment must include a provision that one of the parents is required to maintain OHP coverage for the children (it has to specify which parent).  Further, the judgment must include a provision that says both parents are required to provide private health insurance if it is available to the children and is “reasonable” in cost.  “Reasonable” is defined as no more than 4% of a parent’s adjusted income (there are additional limitations which may apply).  However, once one parent covers the children, double coverage is not required.

If the children are on OHP and the child support obligor (the parent who owes child support) has income that is more than minimum wage, that parent will be required to pay something called “cash medical support” to the state.  (There are other exceptions to payment of cash medical support as well.)  This is basically a reimbursement to the state if they are receiving state-subsidized health coverage.  Cash medical support can also be owed from one party to the other, although this does not usually happen (people usually divide unreimbursed medical expenses instead of paying cash medical support).

Cost of Premiums.  Typically, at least one parent has some out-of-pocket cost for a child’s health insurance premium.  Parents sometimes ask whether the other parent is required to contribute to the cost.  The way this gets addressed is that the cost for a child’s health insurance premium is factored into the child support calculation.  The calculator then divides the cost between the parties proportionate to their incomes.  What this ends up meaning is that if a parent is receiving child support and also provides health insurance, child support will increase.  On the other hand, if someone is receiving child support and the other parent provides health insurance, then child support will go down.  In this way both parents end up contributing to the cost of health insurance premiums for the children, even though only parent pays the actual premium.

Unreimbursed Medical Expenses.  “Unreimbursed medical expenses” refers to the out-of-pocket cost of medical expenses for the children which is not covered by health insurance.  Every judgment needs to address how these costs will be paid.  Think of it this way, if you received an $800 medical bill for children after insurance coverage, how would that bill get paid between you?  The two most common approaches are to split these expenses 50/50 or to split them proportionate to your incomes.  Generally, these costs are split 50/50 unless there is a significant disparity in incomes, in which case proportionate to incomes may make more sense.

The following applies to health insurance for adults:

COBRA.  Someone can only be covered on their spouse’s health insurance while they are married.  Once they are divorced, the now-former spouse can no longer be covered.  COBRA is a federal law that allows for the continuation of health insurance coverage after divorce for the now-former spouse.  (COBRA applies to employers with 20 or more employees.  There is an Oregon law that applies to employers that are smaller than this.)  There are very strict timelines that apply to maintain health insurance coverage under COBRA.  Further, COBRA tends to be fairly expensive because you have to pay the entire cost of the health insurance (and you no longer receive an employer subsidy).

If you are considering maintaining your health insurance through COBRA, you will want to know how much your premium will be.  The employee can find this out by contacting HR or the benefits department.  You will need to let the employer know that you are going through a divorce and that you need to know the cost of COBRA for your soon-to-be-ex spouse to maintain health insurance.  The employer will know what you are talking about and should be able to provide you with a rate sheet which shows the cost to maintain COBRA coverage.

COBRA allows a former spouse to maintain health insurance for up to 3 years as long as all premiums are paid on time.  The Oregon law that applies to smaller employers lasts for a shorter duration.

COBRA used to be more important than it currently is because it used to be that health insurance could be very difficult to obtain.  Currently, the Affordable Care Act allows anyone to obtain health insurance, regardless of pre-existing conditions.  It remains to be seen whether there will be changes to the Affordable Care Act.  Depending on how the law changes (if it changes), COBRA could once again be very important in the divorce context.

Paying for Health Insurance.  A common question is whether a person who is paying spousal support “has to” provide health insurance for a former spouse.  There is not a rule that health insurance must be provided.  However, this is usually addressed via spousal support.  A person who is receiving spousal support will typically include the cost of health insurance in his or her budget.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that the total budget will be covered by support (there might not be enough money to cover everything), but it will at least get factored in.

Tip: If you are going through divorce and going to lose health insurance coverage, you should determine the cost of COBRA coverage and also get a quote for health insurance through Healthcare.gov so that you can compare the two.  If you are employed, check to see whether health insurance is offered through your employer and what the cost is.  Employer-provided health insurance is often the most cost-effective option.

What Does Child Support Cover?

People frequently ask the question, “What does child support cover?”  The answer depends, at least in part, on who you ask.  Note: Although the principles in this article may be relevant in other states, this article only applies to child support in Oregon.  The topics discussed are not “rules” per se, but rather observations based on practicing family law for 10 years and having mediated hundreds of cases.

The General Rule.  Generally speaking, if you go to trial a judge will tell you that child support covers a parent’s entire contribution to a child’s expenses in the other parent’s household, except for unreimbursed medical expenses which are their own separate category.  (It’s important to note that contributions for childcare and health insurance premiums are factored into the child support calculation.)  In other words, parents are generally not required to split various costs related to their childrenWith that in mind, one common reason for choosing mediation is so that people can reach their own agreements without having someone tell them what they are going to do. 

The Parenting Time Credit.  The Oregon Child Support Guidelines factor in something called a ‘parenting time credit.’  The parenting time credit is a reduction in child support based on the total amount of time a parent spends with the children (usually based on overnights).  The idea is that if someone has more time with the children, they are spending more money on the children during their time than if they did not have as much time (and the other parent is spending less).  It’s pretty easy to imagine that a parent who has a ‘week on/week off’ parenting plan will spend a lot more money on things related to the children then a parent who only sees the children every other weekend.  The parenting time credit accounts for this.

The concept of the parenting credit makes sense, but it can also make the “normal” child support rules a bit confusing in certain situations.  If one parent has very limited parenting time, then it makes sense that that parent pays child support and the other parent pays for most expenses.  But who is supposed to pay for the various expenses if parents have equal parenting time, particularly if they have similar incomes?  This is one example of why people often split certain expenses.

What Percentage To Use?  When it comes to “splitting” expenses, you need to identify what percentage each parent will pay.  If parents have similar incomes – particularly after transfer of child support and/or spousal support – then parents will often (although not always) agree to split these expenses 50/50.  One of the benefits of splitting expenses 50/50 is that the accounting and reimbursing for expenses is more straightforward.

Alternatively, people sometimes split expenses proportionate to their incomes.  This means, for example, that if one parent has 70% of the income and other parent has 30% of the income, then they would split expenses 70/30.  Parents will often split things proportionate to incomes in situations where they have very disparate incomes.

There is not a ‘right’ answer to how expenses will be split – or if they will be split.  Further, people will sometimes split one category 50/50 while splitting other categories proportionate to their incomes.  It all depends on what makes the most sense to both of you.

No Child Support.  In situations where child support is low anyway, e.g. less than $100, parents will sometimes agree that they will reduce child support to $0 and instead split some or all of the categories of expenses described below.  It’s important to know that child support is inherently modifiable, which means that even if there is no child support now, there could be child support in the future.  (Here is an article about modification.)  In any event, child support will only be reduced to $0 if both parents agree to it.  If there is no agreement, then the Oregon Child Support Guideline calculation will apply.

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Here are categories of expenditures that people will sometimes include in addition to (or in lieu of) child support:

Irregular Expenditures.  The Oregon Child Support Guidelines don’t necessarily factor in larger irregular or “one off” expenditures.  For example, if a child has a junior trip to Washington D.C. how should that be paid for?  What if a child has to have an iPad for school?  What about a $300 bike?  People often include a provision that says that they will split the cost of these irregular expenditures as long as both parents agree.  This provision isn’t a “risk” to either parent because it only requires parents to pay for something if they both agree.

Extracurricular Activities.  Does your child have a specific activity that he or she has always participated in?  In that case, parents will sometimes agree that they will split anything related to that particular activity, regardless of cost.  For example, if your child has always played club soccer, you might agree that you will split the cost of anything soccer-related without the need to discuss it first (although as a practical matter, you should run these sorts of things by the other parent).  With this type of provision, it still makes sense to say that, notwithstanding the agreement to split everything soccer-related, you will discuss anything over a certain amount before incurring the cost ($e.g., $200).  Additionally, parents will sometimes agree to split all extra-curricular fees even if their child does not have a “preferred” activity.

Sometimes parents paying child support do not want to include this provision because the Oregon Child Support Guidelines assume that these expenses are covered by child support.  This is a perfectly reasonably position for the parent to take.  If parents disagree about splitting extracurricular activities, the presumption is that the provision would not be included.

School Related Expenses.  Back-to-school shopping can be a very significant expense.  New clothes and school supplies can easily cost a few hundred dollars or more.  Parents will sometimes agree to split back-to-school shopping.  They may also agree to split other school related expenses such as misc. school fees, school pictures, field trip fees, etc.  As with extracurricular costs, if parents disagree about splitting these costs, the presumption is that the provision would not be included.

Private School Tuition.  Private school tuition is typically something a court will not order parents to split unless they agree.  With that said, if it is important to both parents that a child continues to attend a particular school, parents will sometimes agree to split the cost of private school tuition.

Childcare.  Work or school-related childcare is a factor in the child support calculation.  The child support calculator splits the expense proportionate to each parent’s income.  What ends up happening is that if one parent pays all of the childcare expenses, then child support will go up if that person is receiving child support or child support will go down if that parent is paying child support.

One of the challenges of factoring childcare costs into the child support calculation is that childcare costs fluctuate regularly.  As children get older costs typically change.  Also, when there are breaks from school costs typically change.  If you factor childcare into the child support calculation and then there is a significant change in childcare cost, then you will probably have to run a new childcare calculation.

One way that people avoid having to constantly rerun child support calculations is by excluding childcare from the child support calculation.  Instead, people will split childcare proportionate to their incomes (usually) when it is incurred.  That way if childcare costs fluctuate, your contributions to childcare will fluctuate but child support will stay the same.  The reason childcare is split proportionate to incomes instead of 50/50 is because the child support calculator splits the cost proportionate to incomes.

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It’s important to understand that parents are generally not required to split the above expenses.  However, many parents often agree to split at least some of these expenses.  In the absence of an agreement, it is important to know that the presumption is that these expenses will not be split.

The topic of splitting expenses is a good example of why people pick mediation in the first place – so they can create agreements that make sense to them rather than having someone else make their decisions for them.

So what does child support cover?  The answer, at least in mediation and Collaborative Law, is that child support covers whatever you both agree it should cover.

Notifying the Life Insurance Company

Judgments that contain child support, spousal support or property settlements that will be paid over time typically contain a requirement that the person who owes the money has to maintain life insurance to “insure” the support award.  Once the divorce or custody judgment has been signed by the court it will be time to notify the life insurance company.  Here is what you need to know:

Disclaimer – Use and review of this article is subject to the Disclaimer at the end of the article.

Copy of the Life Insurance Policy

First, the insured party (the party who owes the money) has to provide a copy of the applicable life insurance policy to the person who is the beneficiary (or trustee beneficiary) of the policy.  The policy document provides the beneficiary with the address and other policy information that they need.

Notification Letter

Next, the beneficiary needs to send a notification letter as well as a certified copy of the judgment to the applicable life insurance company.  A certified judgment is one that contains the court’s official seal on it.  You will need to obtain a certified copy directly from the courthouse (your lawyer or mediator can assist you with obtaining a certified copy).  You can learn more about obtaining certified copies here.

The notification letter is the part that is confusing to most people.  Here is a sample life insurance notification letter.  This resource is provided only as a sample only and cannot be used as-is.  You will need draft your own letter and tailor it to your own specific circumstances and terms of your judgment.

Do not attempt this notification process if you are represented by an attorney.  Your attorney should take care of this for you.  If you are unsure if your attorney has taken this step, be sure to ask.

Confirmation from the Life Insurance Company

The life insurance notification process is not complete until you receive a notification from the life insurance company acknowledging receipt of the judgment and that they will comply with the terms of it.  If you do not receive confirmation from the company be sure that you follow up with them until you do.

Disclaimer

  • The information in this article is provided only as a general informational resource for unrepresented parties. Nothing contained herein letter constitutes legal advice and nothing contained herein should be construed as legal advice.
  • If you are represented by an attorney, you should not attempt the life insurance notification process yourself.
  • The sample letter above is not to be used “as-is”. This is a sample only which must be modified based on the circumstances of your situation.  It is your responsibility to draft your own letter.  This sample is specifically provided as a .pdf file so that you cannot use this document.
  • The life insurance requirement is very important and there can be significant consequences if it is not done correctly. If you have any questions about the life insurance notification process you should contact an attorney.
  • Use of, or reliance upon, the sample letter is done so at your own risk. Forrest Collins accepts no liability or responsibility for your use of or reliance upon the sample letter, whether used in whole or in part.
  • This article only applies to judgments entered in the State of Oregon.