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Child Support


​Child support is money one parent pays the other parent or guardian (or sometimes the State) to meet the needs of a child. In Oregon support is based on the combined income of the parents and what parents at that income level spend to support their children. Usually, child support is paid when the parents do not live in the same household. Child support includes money payments and providing health insurance coverage. Child support is usually paid on a monthly basis.

​In Oregon, a child is entitled to be supported by his or her parents until the age of 18. Also, the Courts and the Child Support Program have the power to order that support continue when the child is 18, 19, and 20 years old if the child is attending school according to legal standards. But if a child is married, self-supporting, or in the military, the child is usually considered to be emancipated and the parents support obligation ends.

​Sometimes parents can agree on the amount of child support and handle the issue informally, without court or agency orders. This might be the situation if no divorce or child custody orders are needed. Parents can use the Child Support Calculator to see what amounts are appropriate under Oregon law for their family income and size.

Disputes about payments often arise when no records exist to show what amount was agreed to or when payments were made. A child support agreement will be fully enforceable only if it is an order, signed by a Judge or the Child Support Program staff. Parents can obtain a child support order from the courts or the Child Support Program. No custody or divorce case needs to be filed to get a support order through the Child Support Program, but paternity must be established first.

​Oregon law sets out a formula for calculating child support obligations.

That formula is available for parents to use online. The ​Child Support Calculator takes into account parents' incomes, the size of the family, and other factors. If parents do not agree on the amount of support, a Judge will order the support obligation as part of a divorce or custody case. Also, the Oregon Child Support Program can often establish a child support award when a parent requests, even if no court case is pending or planned but paternity must always be established before child support can be ordered.

​The law requires that when an order for support exists, it must be paid by withholdings from the paying parent's paycheck, just like taxes. If withholding is not possible in a particular case or if parents have agreed on another arrangement, the child support amount might be directly deposited into the receiving parents checking account. If the Child Support Program is handling the support case, mailing a monthly check to their Salem office or an electronic transfer of funds is required. New technology will also make child support handled through the Child Support Program payable in new ways soon.

​If a parent has not paid the ordered amount of support, an attorney can help a parent who is owed support. The Oregon Child Support Program also has the responsibility to enforce child support orders. As a government agency, the Child Support Program has some powers that a private attorney does not. Sometimes setting up automatic wage withholding is all that is needed. But parents who fall behind in payments risk having their driver's licenses, professional and business licenses, or recreational (hunting) licenses suspended, bank accounts garnished, passports revoked, and tax refunds intercepted. If a Judge finds that the failure to pay a child support order was willful, the paying parent may also face contempt of court charges.

​Both the Child Support Program and the Courts have the power to modify child support orders if there has been a substantial change of circumstance since the last order. The parent who wants the change would need to start a legal action with the Child Support Program or the Court to request a modification. The change would involve something significant about either parent's income or an unexpected increase or decrease in the child's needs. The Child Support Program also has the power to re-examine a child support order every 3 years to see if it still meets the Oregon guidelines, even if there has not been a substantial change of circumstance.

​Any parent can choose to have the Oregon Child Support Program handle his or her support case, whether that parent pays or receives the support. Enrollment in the Oregon Child Support Program is automatic for Oregon parents whose children receive TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) or OHP (Oregon Health Plan) coverage or are in foster care or in youth correctional care. The Oregon Child Support Program helps locate absent parents, establishes paternity of children, and establishes, enforces, and modifies child support orders. Information about the Oregon Child Support Program is available at their website.

Child Support Topics

​Paternity means establishing that a man is the legal father of a child born outside of marriage. Establishing paternity is necessary before custody, parenting time, and child support can be ordered. It is possible to ask the court to establish custody, parenting time, and child support as part of a case that establishes paternity. You may need a lawyer to help you. The Oregon Judicial Department does not offer forms for paternity.

The court process for establishing paternity, also knows as "filiation," is found in Oregon Revised Statutes 109.124 - 109.237. The mother, presumed father, State of Oregon, or a guardian of the child may file to start a paternity proceeding. In Oregon, paternity may also be established in the following ways:
  • If a child is born during marriage, the husband is presumed to be the father.
  • If a child is born and the parents later marry, they may sign a notarized Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form and file it with the Center for Health Statistics.
  • An unmarried mother and biological father may sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form and file it with the Center for Health Statistics. The father's name will be added to the birth certificate when the acknowledgment is filed.
  • The State of Oregon Child Support Program​ may establish paternity through administrative proceedings.

Genetic or DNA testing is the most accurate method of determining the biological father of a child.

Once paternity is legally established, there are only a few ways that the issue can be reconsidered. Speak with a lawyer for more information.


​Find out how medical support works: