Arkansas Child Support & Parenting Time Calculations
In Arkansas, the amount of child support is figured based on income only. Parenting time doesn't normally figure into the formula.
The court may deviate from its strict child support guidelines on a case-by-case basis when the non-residential parent's visitation time greatly exceeds what is considered customary. Accurate parenting time numbers can directly affect your child support, whether you pay or receive.
Arkansas attorneys and judges often rely on parenting time estimates, even if they are incorrect, because counting parenting time is tedious and time consuming. Divorcing parents often rely on these estimates as well.
Using estimates means your parenting time totals are wrong when compared to your actual parenting time schedule. This means your child support amount will not be fair or exact.
To calculate parenting time, the easiest and most accurate way is to use software. Without software, you're forced to add up hours for a whole year, which is error-prone when you include alternating holidays, summer break, and any changes to the schedule throughout the year.
The leading parenting time calculation software, Custody X Change, can calculate your parenting time to see if it was estimated incorrectly.
Using software, you can also tweak your schedule to see how even little changes affect your total parenting time, and you can see how your parenting time changes each year due to holidays and other events.
You can also track what actually happens, and show how much parenting time you've actually received for any period of time. Historical information is a powerful tool when you request a child support modification or when you request more parenting time.
In any divorce, Arkansas family courts award custody of the children to one or both parents. Custody is divided into legal custody and physical custody.
Arkansas sole physical custody: The children reside with and are supervised by the residential parent, while the other parent is entitled to visitations. Each county in Arkansas has designated what their standard visitation schedule is.
Arkansas joint physical custody: Each parent has significant periods of physical custody, which allows them frequent and continuing contact with their children. Although Arkansas Code Ann. § 9-13-101(b)(1)(A)(ii) allows the family court to award joint custody, it is not favored. The guidelines state that joint physical custody will not necessarily mean equal amounts of time between parents.
In Arkansas, the child support formula is the same for sole and joint physical custody. Unlike many other states, Arkansas gives no automatic parenting time credit that can reduce your child support amount.
The only way parenting time can influence the amount of child support you receive or pay is when the family court deems the visitations are substantially in excess of those usually approved by the court. The court will make modifications to child support on a case-by-case basis.
Your best chance for accurate child support is to show the court that your parenting time will greatly exceed what is standard for your county to approve. More parenting time may mean abatement in child support. Arkansas family courts make these decisions on a case-by-case basis.
Accurate parenting time percentages are important because Arkansas law allows for exceptions to be made in the child support amount if you can show you qualify for special consideration.
Here are a couple of ways parenting time percentages might affect your case:
- Extraordinary time. The law states that the court may deviate from the standard child support guidelines when it finds “extraordinary time spent with the noncustodial parent, or shared or joint custody arrangements.”
- Consecutive days. The court will consider whether an adjustment in child support is appropriate whenever the children spend 14 or more consecutive days with the non-residential parent, such as during the summer.
While standard visitation schedules may vary throughout the state, the visitation schedule outlined by the second judicial district of Arkansas represents a fairly common choice for Arkansas family courts.
Here are the standard visitation times in the schedule:
- Alternating weekends, from 5:00 p.m. Friday to 5:00 p.m. Sunday
- One midweek evening visit or overnight per week
- Dividing major holidays and alternating half each year
- Six weeks during summer break, either consecutive or in three 2-week segments
- Father's Day or Mother's day as relevant, each year
- Alternate years for each child's birthday
If you feel your parenting time exceeds this type of schedule, present an accurate schedule to the court for comparison.
Consider the hypothetical case of Robert and Mary. Robert earns $4,000 per month, while Mary earns $2,400 per month after allowable deductions. They have two children.
Here are the steps to figure out their child support amount:
- The Arkansas family court has determined that Robert will be the non-custodial parent. In Arkansas, the non-custodial parent pays the custodial parent.
- After certain allowable deductions, Robert's adjusted income is $3,400 per month. Mary's income does not figure into the child support formula.
- According to the Arkansas Monthly Family Support Chart, the total child support obligation for Robert is $842 per month.
If Robert could show that his parenting time greatly exceeded the standard, the Arkansas family court might consider reducing the amount of child support.
Arkansas's child support formula uses the following information to calculate your monthly amounts for joint custody child support:
- All forms of income for the non-residential parent, including wages, pension, bonuses, commissions, disability and interest
- Considerations for federal and state taxes, employment benefits, Medicare contributions and retirement contributions
- Any insurance premiums for the children
- Any existing support orders for either parent
- Number of children under 18 or still in high school
Paying accurate child support helps your children in several ways, primarily because it ensures their financial needs are met.
Here are some other reasons why accurate overnight numbers help you, the other parent and your children:
- It provides a fair way to determine your child support amounts
- It guarantees the child support amount reflects each parent's responsibilities
- It allows for modifications if your actual time and scheduled time are different
- It is compliant with Arkansas law
Your financial obligations to your children don't end with divorce, so whether you are paying or receiving child support, you owe it to your children to pay or receive the proper amount.
To ensure you are paying or receiving the right amount of child support in Arkansas, remember these 5 things:
- Arkansas child support guidelines provide a child support formula that courts must follow unless there are extenuating circumstances. Parenting time percentages are not a factor in normal child support calculations.
- In order to deviate from the state's guidelines, Arkansas Annotated Code Section 2 of Title 9, Family Law, requires family court judges to provide written justification for the deviation.
- The court may deviate from the standard child support guidelines based on a non-residential parent's extraordinary amount of parenting time that exceeds standard guidelines.
- To show the court your accurate parenting time numbers, you must provide calculations to the hour of your actual parenting time and show how that compares to your county's parenting time guidelines.
- With 14 or more consecutive days of visitation, you may be eligible for abatement in child support for that time.
Use the Custody X Change software to accurately calculate your total parenting time to present to an Arkansas family court.