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Arkansas child support, custody, visitation, and wage garnishment rules

Use this Arkansas child support law to learn about your child support rights and responsibilites.

How is Arkansas child support determined?

In Arkansas, either parent may be ordered to provide child support. The decision by the courts to order a reasonable amount of child support are based on the following factors:

  • the circumstances of the parents and the child;
  • the nature of the case.

Arkansas has official child support guidelines that determine child support paid based on the parent’s income and other financial factors. These guidelines are designed to be in the best interests of the child. When the payer’s income exceeds that on the state guideline chart, the following percentages are used:

  • One dependent: 15%
  • Two dependents: 21%
  • Three dependents: 25%
  • Four dependents: 28%
  • Five dependents: 30%
  • Six dependents: 32%

The state child support guidelines will be used by the court to determine the child support payments unless this amount is determined to be unjust, and the court makes written findings on the record that the application of the support chart would be unjust and inappropriate.

At what age does child support payments end?

Generally, the obligation ends when the child reaches 18 years of age or the child graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. A child will also automatically be ineligible for child support if that child marries, is removed from disability status by a court order, or the child dies.

Arkansas's custody guidelines:

When it comes to awarding child custody in Arkansas, the decision will be made without regard to the sex of the parent. The court considers the welfare and the best interests of the child, as well as the following factors:

  • the circumstances of the parents and the child
  • the nature of the case
  • which parent is most likely to allow frequent and continuing contact with the other parent
  • and any acts of domestic violence

Joint custody may be awarded if it is found to be in the best interests of the child.

Arkansas's medical insurance guidelines:

Generally, a determination about who is going to provide medical health care insurance for the children and how uninsured medical bills will be paid is part of the marital settlement agreement set out in the divorce process. There is a standard medical order which requires both parents to carry medical insurance at their place of employment if it is available at a reasonable cost. Also under this order, each party is required to pay half of the medical expenses of the minor child not covered by the insurance.

If the non-custodial parent has been ordered by the court to pay medical support or to maintain health care coverage, this parent is subject to income withholding for the health care coverage in Arkansas.

A court may issue an income deduction order to insure that the required health care coverage is being provided for the children of the parties. The income withholding order will become effective as soon as the child or children are enrolled in a health insurance coverage plan.

Once activated, income withholding shall apply to current and subsequent periods of employment.  Furthermore, income withholding for health care will have priority over all other legal processes against the earnings of the non-custodial parent except an income deduction order for child support.

How permanent are the provisions for Arkansas child support and custody ?

As in most states, court orders providing for support and custody of children are subject to modification after a divorce if there is a substantial change in either of the parties’ circumstances, such as a significant increase or decrease in income. In Arkansas, the criteria for a modified court order includes:

  • both parents offer their consent for a modification
  • there is a 20% or a $100 change per month in the payer’s gross income

In Arkansas, reviews of court orders occur once every 36 months from the date of the most recent order or the most recent review.

While all orders concerning the children are modifiable in the future, we encourage you to not enter into an agreement based on the idea that it can always be changed or modified later.

Wage garnishment for child support payments:

Yes. Almost every state, including Arkansas, has a provision for withholding child support directly from the earnings of the parent who has been ordered to provide support. In fact, in Arkansas, all child support orders issued include a provision for immediate implementation of income withholding, barring any good reason not to require immediate withholding. The way money is withheld is very similar to the way income tax
is withheld.

This way of paying and receiving child support is generally easier for both parties and considered a very dependable solution. The way it typically works is, once the support is withheld, it is then sent to the state agency authorized to receive and disburse payments. Once it has been verified that the support was paid, it is then sent to the custodial parent.

How does joint custody work?

In Arkansas, joint or shared custody may be awarded if the court determines it is in the best interests of the child.

Specifically, joint custody is a form of custody of minor children that requires both parents to share the responsibilities of the children, and for both parents to approve all major decisions related to the children.

While it is a 50-50 sharing of responsibilities and major decisions affecting the children, it rarely works out to be a 50-50 sharing of time with the children. Usually one parent is named as the primary joint custodian and the other parent is granted visitation. The primary joint custodian typically retains the decision making power to determine the child’s primary residence and school and to designate things such as the child’s primary physician.

How Arkansas determines child visitation:

The state guidelines assume that the non-custodial parent or the parent who is not the primary joint custodian, has visitation rights every other weekend and for several weeks in the summer.

Is there a statute of limitations on collecting unpaid child support?

Yes, prior to 1998 the statute of limitations was 10 years. In 1998 a change was made to the statute lowering it to 5 years, and was not retroactive. In other words, the custodial parent still has 10 years to collect those missed payments if the cases is prior to 1998. For all cases after 1998, the custodial parent only has five years.

Is there any interest applied to unpaid child support in Arkansas?

In some instances, interest is applied. There is a 10% interest penalty applied to missed child support payments. There is also a 10% interest penalty applied to adjudicated arrearage – in other words, past due child support payments for which there was a court order. There are, however, no interest payments applied to retroactive child support.

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