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Child Support

Child support issues are hard to handle…without a lawyer’s help. It involves complexities, calculations, and systems unfamiliar to non-lawyers.

When parents live apart, there needs to be a system to assure that children are fairly and consistently supported.

How is the correct amount of child support calculated? What information and documents are needed to verify income amounts? How are the kids’ daycare costs, insurance premiums, and uninsured medical expenses shared (and collected)? Are payments made directly between the parties or wage withheld? Where are payments made? Who monitors payments to assure they are made? Is there mandatory language that must be included in judgments and orders? Are support orders modifiable? How frequently? How does the system handle income that fluctuates from year to year? How do courts handle bonus income? When can back support be ordered?

Questions abound. You’ll want to visit with a good family lawyer for answers, but we hope to answer some of the frequently asked questions about North Dakota child support laws below

Common Questions About North Dakota Child Support Laws

How is child support calculated in North Dakota?

In North Dakota, a child support obligation is determined using a formula, as follows:

Payee’s gross wages (w2’s, 1099s, retirement benefits, etc.)

-   Standard income tax deduction ($6,300)

-   Dependency exemptions (if any) ($4,050 for self, $4,050 per dependent claimed)

=  Taxable income

 

Taxable income (found on the current IRS tax tables)

-   Child tax credit (if any) ($1,000 per dependent claimed)

=  Total federal tax

 

Federal tax

+  State tax (federal tax multiplied by 14%)

+  FICA (gross wages multiplied by 7.65%, in most cases)

+  health insurance for children (if any)

+  dental insurance for children (if any)

+  union fees, or other required employment expenses (rare)

=  Total amount deducted from your gross wages

 

Net income (total deductions minus gross income)

Net monthly income

Child support amounts are listed in the North Dakota Administrative Code based upon the payee’s net monthly income and the number of children receiving support. There is a calculator available online to assist you.

What is the Lien Registry?

The lien registry is a public site that maintains a list of obligors who owe past-due child support. North Dakota law requires the Child Support Enforcement Unit to maintain a child support lien registry. The list can be searched by anyone at any time by going to the North Dakota Child Support Lien Registry website.

How long do I have to pay child support?

A child support order terminates under various circumstances, including:

  • When your child turns 18 or through the month in which your child graduates from high school;
  • When your child turns 19, if they are still enrolled in high school and living with the other parent;
  • When your child gets married;
  • When your child joins the armed services, or;
  • When your child is legally emancipated.

Where do I send my support payments? Do I pay my ex directly?

All child support payments are paid through the child support system. Unless you are self-employed, your wages are subject to wage withholding. The child support system will ask you to complete a form, and they will send a wage withholding order to your employer.

If you are self-employed, you will mail your support payments directly to the child support unit at State Disbursement Unit, P.O. Box 7280, Bismarck, ND 58507-7280.

Do not pay child support directly to your ex. If you do, make sure to tell your attorney right away. If you don’t have an attorney, you need to contact the child support unit. In most cases, they will give you credit for the support you have already paid (make sure you keep good records). However, if you continue to pay your child support directly, you will not receive credit in the future.

Additional North Dakota Child Support Questions & Answers

A child support obligation is determined using a formula, as follows:

Payee’s gross wages (w2’s, 1099s, retirement benefits, etc.)
-   Standard income tax deduction ($6,300)
-   Dependency exemptions (if any) ($4,050 for self, $4,050 per dependent claimed)
=  Taxable income

Taxable income (found on the current IRS tax tables)
-   Child tax credit (if any) ($1,000 per dependent claimed)
=  Total federal tax

Federal tax
+  State tax (federal tax multiplied by 14%)
+  FICA (gross wages multiplied by 7.65%, in most cases)
+  health insurance for children (if any)
+  dental insurance for children (if any)
+  union fees, or other required employment expenses (rare)
=  Total amount deducted from your gross wages

Net income (total deductions minus gross income)
Net monthly income

Child support amounts are listed in the North Dakota Administrative Code based upon the payee’s net monthly income and the number of children receiving support. There is a calculator available online to assist you.

 

Gross income includes:

salaries, wages, overtime wages, commissions, bonuses, employee benefits, currently deferred income, dividends, severance pay, pensions, interest trust income, annuities income, gains, social security benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, distributions of retirement benefits, veterans benefits, gifts and prizes exceeding $1000, in-kind income received on a regular basis, spousal support, refundable tax credits, children’s benefits, military subsistence payments, and net-income from self-employment.

Not unless you have “equal residential responsibility” and “equal parenting time.” In North Dakota, equal means exactly 50% parenting time.

When parents share 50% parenting time, they owe a child support obligation to each other. There is usually an offsetting child support obligation. For instance, if dad’s child support is $500 and mom’s child support is $250, then dad will pay mom $250 a month for child support. In some instances, the child support obligations are equal and there is no offset amount.

No. For child support purposes, it is presumed that anyone can work at least 40 hours a week for minimum wage. Also, your ex-boyfriend’s prior work history and wages will be considered. This is called “imputing” wages. There are many variables to consider. It would be best to speak with an attorney to make sure his child support is calculated properly.

A person is considered underemployed for child support purposes under two circumstances:

  1. He or she is earning 60% of the statewide average wage for the same position, or;
  2. He or she is earning less than 167 times the federal minimum wage (or $1,200 monthly).

When a person is underemployed, gross wages will be imputed to him or her. This is another circumstance where it is best to work with an attorney to ensure the child support amount is calculated properly.

If you are self-employed it can be difficult to determine what your gross wages were for the year. Whether you are working with an attorney or through the child support unit, you should be prepared to turn over your previous five years’ tax returns, including all the schedules and worksheets. Some of the income you deducted for income tax purposes, is not deductible for child support purposes.

If your income fluctuates each year, your gross income will be determined by averaging your income over either a three or five-year period.

A child support order terminates under various circumstances, including:

  1. When your child turns 18 or through the month in which your child graduates from high school;
  2. When your child turns 19, if they are still enrolled in high school and living with the other parent;
  3. When your child gets married;
  4. When your child joins the armed services, or;
  5. When your child is legally emancipated.

Not necessarily. Because you have more than one child, it is important for your child support order to use a “step-down” approach. For example, your order should say something like the following,

John shall pay to Jane $1,200 per month for the support of three children. When only two children are eligible for child support, John shall pay to Jane $900 per month for the support of two children. When only one child is eligible for child support, John shall pay to Jane $500 per month for the support of one child.

If your order includes this language, the child support unit will send the other parent an affidavit to sign and return. Your child support should change automatically.

If, however, your order does not include this language, you should meet with an attorney right away. You will need to modify your Judgment to include the “step-down” and modify your child support. 

All child support payments are paid through the child support system. Unless you are self-employed, your wages are subject to wage withholding. The child support system will ask you to complete a form, and they will send a wage withholding order to your employer.

If you are self-employed, you will mail your support payments directly to the child support unit at State Disbursement Unit, P.O. Box 7280, Bismarck, ND 58507-7280.

Do not pay child support directly to your ex. If you do, make sure to tell your attorney right away. If you don’t have an attorney, you need to contact the child support unit. In most cases, they will give you credit for the support you have already paid (make sure you keep good records). However, if you continue to pay your child support directly, you will not receive credit in the future.

You will need to give the child support unit your social security number, mailing address, telephone number, driver’s license number, and your employer’s name and contact information. You need to contact the child support unit if any of your information changes.

North Dakota law requires the Child Support Enforcement Unit to maintain a child support lien registry.  It is a list of obligors who owe past-due child support.  The registry is a public site that may be searched by anyone.

No. Child support can’t be waived.  In the law’s view, the support is the children’s money and a parent has no legal power to waive payment.

No. The law requires that all child support orders be calculated using the same formula. However, there are some exceptions. If you are concerned, you should meet with an attorney to determine if any of the exceptions apply in your situation.

Child support covers the basic costs to care for your child, which include things such as, shelter, food, clothes, school supplies, lunches, daycare or afterschool costs, and extra-curricular activities.

In most cases, yes you can. So long as you didn’t receive benefits from the State you shouldn’t have a problem waiving these arrearages. You should contact the child support unit for assistance.

Yes. The rules have built in exceptions called “deviations.” If your circumstances meet the requirements, child support can be deviated up or down. Some common reasons to deviate include: daycare costs, chronic illness, age of the children, and costs for transportation when visiting a child.

Yes. You can request the court to modify your child support. You don’t need to have an attorney do this for you (but it would help). Various factors are considered by the court when modifying a child support order. This becomes more complicated if the other parent doesn’t agree with your request.

If you haven’t modified your child support for at least three years, you can contact the child support unit. They will send documents to both parents, then conduct a review. This is a free service, but they generally only recommend a modification when there will be a 15% increase or decrease in the child support obligation.

Under rare circumstances, you can request a modification within less than a year of your current order. In this situation, you should have an attorney assist you.

Yes. This can happen for several reasons.  Here are three example scenarios:

Paternity:  A child is born to unmarried parents, who split up before child’s birth.  Mom signs up for public assistance.  The State, which is paying that assistance, wants to assure that the child is being fully supported by its parents rather than tax payers.  It sues dad to establish his paternity (legal relationship to the child) and a guideline child support obligation.  A back-support obligation can be imposed to the child’s birth.

Divorce Separation:  Husband and Wife separate.  Children live primarily with one parent.  Months pass and the other parent doesn’t financially help the parent the kids live with. A back-support obligation can be imposed to the date of separation.

Modification Motions:  A support modification motion is started in February, but the hearing on that motion takes place in May.  A back-support obligation can be imposed to the date the motion began.

No. It is never a good idea to withhold court ordered parenting time. The best approach is to start a contempt action against her.  The court will help.