In Oregon child support is based on a formula. You plug in the numbers, press a button, and the calculator produces the presumptively correct amount of child support. You can agree to use a different number if both people are willing to do so. However, in the absence of some other agreement agreement, the number produced by the calculator is the number that will be used.
Here is an overview of how to use the Oregon Child Support Calculator:
Income. Income is the first and most important factor in the child support calculator. In Oregon, “income” is defined very broadly and includes almost any form of money you receive (e.g., wages, bonuses, stipends, overtime, etc.). There may be exceptions to this depending on your circumstances, but generally speaking all income is included.
Per Oregon law, if someone is not working they are usually still “imputed” minimum wage. This basically means that the we pretend they are earning minimum wage even if they are not actually earning that amount. There are a few exceptions to this rule, including disability of a party. If someone is unable to work due to disability they typically are not imputed minimum wage.
Sometimes people are imputed income based on what they could be earning even if they are not currently earning that much. This is similar to being imputed minimum wage, but slightly different. For example, if someone has always earned $80,000 and then they are laid off but they are confident they will regain similar employment, they might be imputed $80,000 even though they aren’t currently earning that much. Imputed income is definitely not a straightforward or easy topic. Your mediator or attorney can talk to you more about this if it is relevant to your situation.
Spousal Support. The transfer of spousal support is a factor in the child support calculator. If someone pays spousal support to the other party, the calculator deducts that income from the payor (the person paying) and adds it to the income of the recipient. In other words, you don’t have to pay child support based on money that you have to transfer as spousal support, BUT, the recipient receives slightly less child support due to receiving spousal support.
For example, if Party A earns $6,000, Party B earns $3,000 and Party A pays $750 per month in spousal support, then the calculator treats this as Party A earning $5,250 and Party B earning $3,750 for purposes of the support calculation.
Union Dues. Union dues are a deduction off of your income in the child support calculation. For example, if you earn $4,000 per month and pay $75 per month in union dues, the calculator treats you as earning $3,925. In other words, you don’t have to pay child support based on money that you have to pay in union dues.
Parenting Plan. A significant factor in the calculation is something called the “parenting time credit.” The parenting time credit is a reduction in child support based on the number of overnights each parent spends with the children. The idea is that if one parent has the children more, they will incur more costs directly on behalf of the children than if they had the children less. For example, if you have the children half of the time, you are going to spend more on their food, day-to-day needs, etc., then if you only have them one day per week. However, a 50/50 parenting plan does not necessarily mean there will be no child support. If there is a disparity in comes with a 50/50 plan, you can still expect that there will be at least some amount of child support (although the other factors mentioned also play a role in determining this).
Note: The entry for parenting time credit is the number of overnights a child is expected to spend with each parent. If there is a 50/50 parenting plan then you enter 182.5 overnights.
Cost of Parental Health Insurance. The cost of a parent’s own health insurance just for that parent is a factor in the calculation. This is similar to union dues mentioned above in that you do not pay child support based on dollars that you have to spend for health insurance premiums (but not other out-of-pocket medical expenses). Both parents’ health insurance premiums are factored in, even if only one parent is providing health insurance for the children. If you aren’t sure of the cost just for your own health insurance, ask HR to provide you a breakdown. You will want to know the “employee only” cost.
Cost of Children’s Health Insurance. The cost of health insurance just to cover the children is also a factor in the support calculator. This is treated differently than the cost of a parent’s health insurance. Instead of being a deduction off of your income, the cost of children’s health insurance is split between the parties proportionate to their incomes. What this ends up meaning is that if a parent pays child support and provides health insurance (unless it is free), then that parent’s child support obligation will be reduced by the other parent’s proportionate share of the health insurance. If a parent is receiving child support and provides health insurance for the children (unless it is free), then that parent’s child support will go up by an amount equal to the other parent’s proportionate share of the health insurance. This means that both parents end up contributing to the cost of health insurance premiums even if only one parent is paying the premium out-of-pocket.
If you cover the children on your health insurance, the cost just for the children can be determined by subtracting the “employee only” cost from the “employee plus dependents” cost. For example, if the “employee only” cost is $100 and the “employee plus dependents” cost is $220, then the cost just for the children is $120 ($220 – $100).
Note: Depending on your plan there may be a distinction between “employee plus family” and “employee plus dependents.” If you currently cover your spouse, you might pay the “employee plus family” rate. After the divorce you will no longer be able to cover your ex-spouse, so just make sure you are using the right figures when you are calculating the cost just for a parent vs. the cost just for the children.
Note: If you cannot distinguish between the cost for a parent and the cost for the children, the rule is that you prorate the amount per person. For example, if the total cost is $300 and that covers you and two children, then the cost just for you is $100 and the cost for the children is $200. Again, this only applies if you cannot find information about the difference in cost for employee only and dependents.
Childcare. The cost of work-related or school-related childcare is a factor in the child support calculation. The cost of childcare is treated just like the cost of a child’s health insurance premiums, i.e., it is split proportionate to the parties’ incomes. So, if one parent pays all of the childcare, child support will be automatically adjusted so that both parents end up contributing to the cost even though only one person is paying for it.
Note: Childcare to go on a social outing is paid by the person who needs it and isn’t factored into the calculation.
Note: Due to the fact that childcare fluctuates over time, people will often exclude childcare from the child support calculation and instead split the cost proportionate to their incomes. Doing this allows you to address the cost of childcare without having to rerun the child support calculation every time childcare changes.
Rebuttal Factors. The child support calculator produces the amount that will apply unless there is a really good reason that there should be an adjustment to the amount. There are a number of “rebuttal factors” that can be applied to either increase or decrease child support. These usually don’t apply unless there is a very compelling reason to change child support. A good example of a situation where a rebuttal factor is appropriate is if you have a child with special needs who requires significant additional costs for his or her care. There are many rebuttal factors and a description of them is beyond the scope of this article. They are mentioned here only so that you know that they exist.
Note: As a practical matter, you can change child support as long as you both agree (and the change is within reason) even if there is not necessarily an applicable rebuttal factor. You should discuss his further with your mediator or attorney if you think this may come up in your situation.
Agreed Upon Changes. Parties can agree to either increase or decrease child support within 15% as long as they both agree to do so and without the need to prove a rebuttal factor. Parties do this for a variety of reasons, including that they want to make child support a round number. For example, if child support is $198, you could agree to increase it or decrease it by $29.70; parents will often round up $2 so that it is $200.
Here is a link to the Oregon Child Support Calculator: https://justice.oregon.gov/guidelines/
Feel free to try and run your own ballpark calculations. But if you can’t figure it out, don’t worry about it – that’s what mediation is for. Also, there is plenty of room for disagreement and/or adjustment in some of these factors (particularly income). So again, don’t feel like you have to get it all figured out yourself.