Child Support Fact Sheet

A child support order is based on a child support worksheet and the ‘Basic Child Support Schedule.’ The court may decide not to follow these guidelines based on certain factors including:

  • special needs of the child,

  • other court-ordered payments,

  • extended parenting time,

  • significant in-kind contributions; and

  • other relevant factors.

The calculation of child support is based on the combined gross income of both parents.

Gross Income does NOT include:

  • Means-tested government benefits such as OWF, DFA, SSI or veterans disability and other assistance based on low income or assets;

  • food stamps;

  • adoption assistance or foster care maintenance.

Able-bodied, unemployed persons may be found to have ‘potential income.’ That can happen if they are voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. The court decides the amount of potential income. It can be based on prior employment, education, physical or mental disabilities, earning ability and other factors.


The court must issue at least a minimum child support order of $50 per month. However, the court can order less or no payment based in certain circumstances. Such circumstances include the nonresidential parent’s medically verified physical or mental disability. It can include other appropriate circumstances.


Either parent can seek to modify a child support amount. There must be a substantial change in circumstances. A ‘substantial change’ causes more than a ten percent change in the correct amount of child support. Also, substantial change can be that the current support order is unjust or inappropriate and not in the best interest of children.


Either a court or the Child Support Enforcement agency (CSEA) can modify a child support order. The CSEA must use the child support guidelines. Only a court can decide to make an order different from the child support guidelines.


A residential parent cannot modify a court order. Agreements between the parties must be in a court order to be enforced. A motion to modify child support must be filed with the court. A change in child support is not automatic.


The Department of Job and Family Services (DJFS) requires anyone who receives OWF to assign their right to child support to the Department. The person receiving support cannot agree to reduce or waive current child support arrears.


If past due child support is collected, it is to be sent to the person owed support, usually the custodian, unless the right to support has assigned to DJFS.


For example: assume the person owed support is the custodian. DJFS claims past due support. The funds are to be paid as follows:

  • current support is paid to the person owed support;

  • any past due support from a time period after the household stopped receiving public assistance is paid to the custodian;

  • any past due support from a time period before the household started receiving public assistance is paid to custodian;

  • any past due support owed to DJFS is paid to DJFS from remaining funds if any.

If the person paying support is receiving social security benefits based on a wage record, the minor child is entitled to dependent benefits as well. Many courts will modify the child support order to reflect a credit for the amount of the dependent benefit. No dependent benefits are available with SSI.


The CSEA has a number of options to enforce payment of child support. The CSEA can withhold income or assets; require a cash bond if a work situation makes withholding impractical; issue a seek work order; withhold from unemployment compensation, prisoner earnings and other payments; and deduct from accounts at financial institutions. CSEA has additional enforcement options to collect past due support. CSEA can seek payment by doing the following: execute on a certified pay-off statement; restrict access to a financial account; refusal, non-renewal or suspension of occupational or professional license; non-renewal or suspension of driver’s license; lien on real estate or personal property; collection from federal and state income tax refunds; notify consumer reporting agencies; and publication of photo and information on a poster.


The CSEA can send a notice to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) seeking to suspend driving privileges after:

  1. A court or CSEA makes a final determination that there is a default; or

  2. The person paying support fails, after receiving notice, to comply with a subpoena or warrant from the court or CSEA.

The BMV cannot hold a hearing on this issue. The BMV may remove the disqualification if it receives notice from the CSEA. The CSEA may send a notice to BMV to remove the disqualification if the obligor makes full payment; that an appropriate withholding order has been issued and the obligor is complying, or a new or modified child support order has been issued and he obligor is complying.


The CSEA or person owed support may file in court to enforce the order. Either may seek a finding of contempt of court. If so, the person paying support may the right to an appointed lawyer. The court will decide if the person is financially unable to afford to obtain a lawyer. Contact the court to request an appointment.



This article is meant to give you general information and not to give you specific legal advice. Prepared by Community Legal Aid Services, Inc. Updated May 2012.