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Puerto Rico child support, custody, visitation, and wage garnishment rules

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

How is Puerto Rico child support determined?

In Puerto Rico, either or both parents may be ordered to make periodic, lump sum or both types of child support payments. The factors the courts consider include:

  • the age and needs of the child
  • the ability of the parents to contribute to the support of the child
  • the financial resources available for the child’s support
  • the amount of possession and access to the child
  • the net resources of the parent who will pay support
  • any childcare expenses necessary for the employment of a parent
  • any other custody or child support obligations, or receipt of child support payments by either parent for another child
  • the amount of alimony currently being paid or received
  • health care and health care insurance provisions for the child
  • any special educational or health care needs that the child has
  • any benefits a parent receives from an employer
  • the debt and obligations of the parents
  • any wage or salary deductions of either parent
  • the cost of traveling to visit the child
  • any negative or positive cash flow from assets
  • any extraordinary educational or health care expenses for a parent or the child
  • expenses beyond secondary school
  • any other relevant factors

There are official Puerto Rico Child Support guidelines, designed to be reasonable and in the best interests of the child, that the courts use to help determine the correct amount of child support. The guidelines will be followed, unless the parents have agreed to a different child support amount.

The state guidelines are generally based on a percentage of the net income of the parent ordered to pay child support.  For obligors with net resources under $6000 per month, the guidelines are as follows:

  • one child - 20%
  • two children - 25%
  • three children - 30%
  • four children - 35%
  • five children - 40%
  • six or more children - no less than the amount for 5 children  

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. However, a court can order the obligation to continue for an indefinite period if the child is disabled. 

A child will automatically be ineligible for child support if that child marries, is removed from disability status by a court order, or the child dies.

Puerto Rico's custody guidelines:

Actually, parents are encouraged to agree on parenting and custody issues. If there is no agreement between the parents, or their agreement is not found to be in the child's best interest, then the courts will make these decisions.

In Puerto Rico, custody is often called managing conservator ship. Joint or sole managing conservatorship may be awarded based on the best interests of the child and in some cases, considering the child’s preference. The sex of the parents is not considered. Other factors the courts consider include:

  • the age, circumstances, needs and best interests of the child
  • the parents’ circumstances
  • any evidence of abuse
  • any other relevant factors

In Puerto Rico, the courts now encourage joint legal custody whenever practical, based on their own considerations. The courts will not award joint custody if there is any credible evidence of spousal or child abuse. The courts will award joint custody if the parents have a written parenting agreement that:

  • designates which parent has the exclusive right to establish the county of primary residence of the child
  • establishes the geographic area of residence for the child
  • states the rights and duties of each parent regarding the child’s care, support and education
  • includes ways to minimize disruption of the child’s schooling, routine and association with friends
  • was entered into voluntarily and knowingly
  • is in the best interests of the child

Puerto Rico's medical insurance guidelines:

Generally, the decision as to which parent is going to provide medical insurance coverage for the child and how medical bills will be paid is set out in the marital settlement agreement. If it is not, the courts may order a parent to provide health insurance coverage for the child and may include the cost in the computation of child support. Usually, if a reasonable medical insurance plan is available through one of the parents' employers, they are required to cover their child on it.

How permanent are the provisions for Puerto Rico child support and custody ?

Court orders providing for support and custody of children are subject to change or modification to reflect significant changes in income, and/or living arrangements of the children.

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:

Most states, including Puerto Rico, have a provision for withholding child support directly from the earnings of the parent who has been ordered to provide support. The payments are withheld much like income tax is withheld from earnings payments.

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 parent designated to receive the support.

What exactly is joint custody and how does it work?

Joint custody is now widely recognized by parents, courts and state legislatures as the preferred parenting plan.

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 joint custody 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. Often 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 does joint custody work?

Generally, parents are free to visit with their children at all times that are mutually agreed to by both parents. However, when parents cannot agree to exactly when visitation will occur, the standard visitation schedule accepted most everywhere in the nation is:

  • every other weekend
  • four to six (4-6) weeks during the summer
  • alternating holidays
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