The divorce rate in the United States continues to hover around the 50 percent mark. Of course, this statistic shifts depending on the age of the spouses, the duration of the marriage, and whether the spouses were previously married. If you and your spouse have concluded that a divorce may be your best path forward, you likely have many questions about what the weeks and months ahead may entail. Even spouses who are divorcing on relatively amicable terms often find the divorce process to be emotionally difficult and draining, as they will face several crucial decisions and negotiations along the way. Child support negotiations can be among the most important issues of the Oregon divorce process, as you will strive to put an effective child support agreement in place that provides for your child’s best interests. As you move through the divorce process in the Portland area (or anywhere in Oregon for that matter), take some time to consider the following aspects of child support to ensure you and your child enjoy a bright and stable future.
1. Know What Child Support does (And does not) Cover
As you begin the process of negotiating a fair child support agreement, it is important to understand the purpose of child support and what exactly these payments cover. In Oregon, child support is intended to cover any expenses that contribute to the child’s care and well-being during the time the child is with the parent who is receiving support. Child support covers a child’s basic necessities, such as food, medical coverage, housing, childcare, clothing, and educational needs. Any costs that directly support the raising of a child should be covered by child support. However, it may be difficult to distinguish between the child’s needs and wants. While child support payments certainly cover the child’s needs, there are many items (e.g., gaming systems or luxury items) that child support does not cover. Murkier costs, such as a school-related trip to the nation’s capital, may be negotiated as they arise; in fact, many child support orders include a provision where the parents are required to split the cost of any irregular expenditures as long as they both agree. Other expenses, such as private school tuition or extracurricular costs, can also be addressed when you negotiate the child support agreement. Discuss your goals and concerns with your attorney to ensure you and your child’s best interests remain protected as the order is drafted.
2. Calculating Child Support can be Complicated
When it comes to calculating exactly how much child support a parent will owe, there is no one-size-fits-all model to provide a magic answer. Instead, the court considers several important factors to ensure that the child support order is fair, reasonable, and supportive of the child’s best interests. The Oregon Department of Justice’s Child Support Program provides a Child Support Guidelines Calculator to give you a frame of reference. It is important to note that the guidelines assume both parents can work forty hours a week, earning minimum wage. A court will use a parent’s potential income, whether that is merely a full-time minimum wage, or more, based on their experience, to calculate a child support obligation. Additionally, the court will look at the child’s unique needs, such as ongoing medical care or enrollment in a specific educational or support program, to determine the child support calculation. Each parent’s income, ability to financially support the child, debt obligations, and other financial factors all play a role in determining the court-mandated child support order. Just as no two families are alike, child support orders aim to address the specific needs of the child and the divorcing spouses.
3. Child Support Modification is Possible
Many divorcing parents assume that the child support order is permanent and unchangeable once the court finalizes it. However, Oregon courts recognize that circumstances change, and a parent may experience a shift in financial income or other circumstance, making the existing child support obligation to be inequitable. If you lost your job or experienced a sudden change in your health and ability to work, you and your attorney can move the court to modify the existing child support order. The modification process, although possible, can be complicated. Your best option is to enlist the assistance of an experienced Portland family law attorney who can help you complete each step of the process with clarity and confidence.
Supporting Your Journey Toward a Bright Future
Even if you are just starting to explore your divorce options in the Portland area, reach out to a knowledgeable and compassionate attorney who can answer your questions, address your concerns, and advocate for your best interests. Together, you can take the necessary steps to lay the foundation for you and your child after the divorce is finalized. Child support can be a complex topic to navigate, but your attorney will remain at your side to ensure you move through this process as smoothly and successfully as possible.
If you have any questions about the divorce process in Oregon, call Kuzma Law, LLC today at (503) 406-1787 to speak with a trusted and friendly Portland divorce attorney.