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Frequently Asked Questions 

General Questions About OCSE
Paternity Questions for Mothers
Paternity Questions for Fathers
Locating the Noncustodial Parent
Receiving Support
Paying Child Support
Enforcing a Child Support Order
Medical Support
Review of Order Amounts
Custodial Parties/Dependants on Public Assistance
Parents With Children in State Custody
Incarceration/Jail
Custody/Visitation
Closing a Case
Technical Issues about OCSE MyCase

General Questions About OCSE

What is the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE)?
Arkansas' Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) is organized under the Department of Finance and Administration - Division of Revenue, and is here to ensure that assistance is available in obtaining child support services and in collecting and disbursing child support payments to families.

Who can get help from OCSE?
Any parent or person with custody of a child who needs help to establish a child support or medical support order or to collect support payments can apply for child support enforcement services. Even if you or the other parent lives in another state, you can apply for services in Arkansas. Relatives or other caretakers who have physical custody of a child are also entitled to child support services. Services to noncustodial parents are limited to a review and modification of their existing order. There are no income eligibility requirements or restrictions in order to apply for services.

How do I open a case with OCSE?
If you are not currently receiving TEA or Medicaid assistant services through the Department of Human Services, you must complete and submit an application for services. Applications are available at your local OCSE office, or you may call 501-682-8398 to request that an application be sent to you.

Does OCSE charge an application fee for its services?
If you are currently receiving Transitional Employment Assistance (TEA) or IV-E Foster Care, or if you and your child are on Medicaid, your case is automatically referred to OCSE if there is a noncustodial parent. If only your child is on Medicaid or ARKids First, then you can choose to have child support services provided by OCSE. There are no fees charged for these type cases.

If you are not currently receiving public assistance as mentioned above, then there is a non-refundable fee of $25 to process your application and open your case. A separate application plus $25 is required for each noncustodial parent.

Are there any other costs?
OCSE recovers part of the actual costs of services from both custodial and noncustodial parents who are not in either the TEA or Medicaid program. Costs include, but are not limited to, the cost of legal work done by OCSE attorneys, costs of establishing paternity, and costs of locating a noncustodial parent. The costs may be deducted from the child support payment before it is sent to you or may be collected from the noncustodial parent. A fee schedule is provided in the Custodial Parent Application Form and the Noncustodial Parent Application Form.

What does OCSE need to know to service my case?
No matter where you start - establishing paternity, finding a noncustodial parent, establishing or enforcing a support order - OCSE must have enough information to work on your case effectively. All information you provide will be treated in confidence. The more details you provide, the easier it will be to process your case and to collect child support payments for your children. Provide as much of the following information and documentation as possible:

  • Information about the noncustodial parent
    • Name, address, and Social Security number
    • Name and address of current or recent employer
    • Names of friends and relatives, names of organizations to which he or she might belong
    • Information about his or her income and assets - pay slips, tax returns, bank accounts, investments, or property holdings
    • Physical description, or photograph, if possible
  • Birth certificates of children
  • If paternity is an issue, written statements (letters or notes) in which the alleged father has said or implied that he is the father of the child
  • Your child support order, divorce decree, or separation agreement if you have one
  • Records of any child support received in the past

You play a big role in getting the child support your children deserve.

Arkansas is not my state of legal residence. Where should I apply?
While you may apply for child support services in any state, we recommend that you apply for child support services in the state where you legally reside.

I live in another state. Can I get help from OCSE in Arkansas?
If you already have a child support case open in the state in which you reside, you should contact the child support agency in that state to learn if it has requested assistance from the state of Arkansas. If you do not have an active child support case, you may wish to apply for services in the state in which you reside. While you can apply directly with Arkansas OCSE, you should be aware that you might be required to travel to Arkansas to attend court hearings. Individuals receiving cash public assistance or Medicaid benefits from another state may not apply for OCSE services in Arkansas.

I used to have a case with OCSE and closed it. What do I need to do to re-open it?
You will need to complete and return an application for services, along with the required $25 fee.

I have a case with another state, but I am moving to Arkansas. What should I do?
You should notify the other state in writing of your new address. If you decide to apply for OCSE services once you are in Arkansas, you will need to complete an application for services and include the information about your case in the other state. Arkansas' OCSE will then notify that state you have applied here for services.

The other parent lives in another state. Where do I turn for help?
While you may apply directly with that state, we recommend you apply for services in your state of legal residence. Child support agencies in all states cooperate to collect child support.

What services are provided?
OCSE may be able to help you with the following:

  • Establish who the father of a child is
  • Locating the noncustodial parent
  • Getting a child support order established or changing an existing support order
  • Getting medical insurance coverage for a child
  • Determining the amount of past due child support
  • Collecting child support payments
  • Collecting spousal support payments when spousal support is part of a child support order
What services are NOT provided?

Legal advice - OCSE attorneys may work on a case and represent the case in court; however, OCSE does not represent the custodial or the noncustodial parent individually in the case. OCSE represents the interest of the State of Arkansas in seeing that children are financially provided for. OCSE will manage a case assigned to them based on federal and state laws and regulations, and OCSE policy.

Spousal support - Spousal support is not enforced unless it was part of the original child support order and child support is currently being collected.

Visitation and legal custody - OCSE cannot advise or help with visitation or custody matters.

I am trying to find someone. Can OCSE help me with locating a missing person?

OCSE can only provide locate services for cases it manages or under certain special circumstances.

Do you have an attorney I can talk to about a question I have related to child support?

No. OCSE attorneys act on the behalf of the State of Arkansas. They do not represent the custodial or noncustodial parent or provide individuals with legal advice. Nor can any OCSE representative provide legal advice to customers. If you have questions regarding your child support case, please contact the appropriate OCSE office. Representatives will be able to answer or research your concerns and provide you with an answer. Should OCSE determine a child support case requires legal action, your case may be prepared for a court hearing and referred to the Arkansas judicial system. In a case OCSE refers to court, our attorneys will represent OCSE. If you want legal advice, you should consult a private attorney.

If a judge makes a decision I disagree with, what can I do?

You may wish to obtain legal counsel. If the decision (or order) can be appealed, you must appeal to the appropriate court within the specified time period. OCSE has no authority over a judge's decision.

Can OCSE collect alimony or spousal support?

In cases where there is both a child support order and a provision for spousal support, often called alimony, OCSE will collect and enforce both types of support obligations. OCSE cannot collect and enforce spousal support alone. OCSE cannot assist you to establish orders for alimony or spousal support.

Once I apply for services, how long does it take before action will be taken on my case?

The amount of time it takes to set up a case varies depending on the information OCSE is provided in the application. It can take up to four weeks to begin action on a case if important information was not provided or is unknown.

How much child support will be ordered?

The amount of child support will be based on the Arkansas Supreme Court guidelines and the noncustodial parent's ability to pay according to these guidelines. See Arkansas Judiciary Child Support Guidelines.

How does OCSE collect a noncustodial parent's support payments when he or she is not employed?

Depending on the circumstances of the case, OCSE may try to collect support from a non-wage earning noncustodial parent in a number of ways, including the following:

  • Suspending driver's, recreational, and occupational licenses,
  • Attaching bank or retirement accounts,
  • Filing liens on real and personal property,
  • Asking the court to find the noncustodial parent in contempt of court.

How does contempt work?

A noncustodial parent is in contempt of court if the noncustodial parent is not paying support as ordered. However, when the noncustodial parent has a valid reason for not being able to pay support, such as for illness or involuntary unemployment, many courts will not hold the noncustodial parent in contempt of court. When the noncustodial parent clearly has the means to pay support and refuses to do so, a contempt action may be appropriate. Because OCSE attaches wages in all delinquency cases, contempt actions are usually limited to those who are self-employed, unemployed, or employed "under the table." For OCSE to refer a case for a contempt action in circuit court, Arkansas must have jurisdiction over the order. If another state is enforcing your child support order, OCSE may ask the other state for contempt action. The other state determines if the action is appropriate.

How long will it take to receive support payments?

Each case is different. The time required depends on several factors, such as the difficulty of locating the noncustodial parent, whether paternity must be established, if an order for support already exists, if the noncustodial parent lives in another state, or whether the noncustodial parent is employed. It often takes several months to begin receiving support, especially if the noncustodial parent lives out of state.

Can a custodial parent apply for help to collect child support services if the other parent was making payments voluntarily but later stopped sending any money?

Yes. In order to receive enforcement services from OCSE, you must complete an application for services and an affidavit listing all of the payments received. The agency also will need a copy of the divorce decree or separation agreement, the current child support order and any previous orders and other documents issued by the court.

How can OCSE enforce support if the noncustodial parent lives out of state or in another country?

If the noncustodial parent lives in another state or U.S. territory, OCSE can ask the other jurisdiction to establish or enforce a support order. Once the case is sent to another jurisdiction, the other jurisdiction has control over most of the actions taken on the case. If the noncustodial parent lives in a foreign country, OCSE may have an agreement with the country to enforce a child support order. Contact OCSE to find out if the country where the noncustodial parent lives has reciprocity with Arkansas.

What if I have a complaint against someone who works for OCSE?

Parties in child support cases are entitled to fair, professional, courteous, and accurate service from offices of the Arkansas Office of Child Support Enforcement. If you have a complaint that you have not received this level of service from an Arkansas OCSE office, please contact a supervisor in that office. If talking to a supervisor does not succeed in resolving the issue, you may with to file a complaint. You may use the Admin Review Request form, or you may call OCSE Customer Service at 501-371-5349 or 877-731-3071.

How do I contact my someone about my case?

Contact the OCSE office handling your case.  You will be connected with the person who can help you.  If you do not know which office is responsible for your case, you can contact OCSE Central Office for that information at 501-371-5349 or 877-731-3071.

Why is it so hard to reach my child support office by phone sometimes?

Caseworkers and customer service representatives are constantly answering telephone inquiries, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CST. Due to the high number of inquiries, you may have to wait to speak with someone or try your call again. Generally, our highest call volumes are Monday and Tuesday, so you may want to try your call later in the week if possible.

Custodial parents can obtain information about payments toll free from our automated voice response service: 800-264-2445. Mailing addresses and email addresses for local child support offices where your case is managed are also available.

What do I do if I think my case is not being handled properly?

OCSE wants to resolve customer issues at the first possible level. If you contest an OCSE action, you can take the following actions:

  • Contact the OCSE caseworker assigned to the case and explain your concern. If the caseworker cannot resolve your issue, ask the caseworker what your options are.
  • If the matter is still unresolved, ask to talk to your caseworker's supervisor.
  • When the supervisor cannot resolve the matter, you should talk to the Office Manager of the office working your case.
  • If your issue cannot be resolved at the local office level, contact our Central Office Customer Service by email or by phone at 501-371-5349 or 877-731-3071.

Do I need to tell OCSE when I move?

Yes! Custodial and noncustodial parents are required to notify OCSE promptly, and in writing, of any change in address, even if you are receiving your payments by direct deposit. Failure to notify OCSE of a change of address when you move will likely result in delays in receiving payments, refunds, and important case information.

How do I close my case with OCSE?

Send a signed letter requesting that your case be closed to the local child support office that manages your case. Please include your OCSE case number whenever you contact us.

Who do I contact if I don't find the answer to my general question?

Please call a local OCSE office nearest you, email OCSE Customer Service, or call OCSE Customer Service at 501-371-5349 or 877-731-3071.

Paternity Questions for Mothers

How can OCSE assist with establishing paternity?

By applying for child support services, OCSE can take steps to help a custodial parent establish paternity for a child. The OCSE caseworker needs as much information as you can provide about the alleged father and the facts about your relationship with him, your pregnancy, and the birth of your child. Some of these questions may be personal, but OCSE must keep the information that you give confidential.

The caseworker will also want to know whether the alleged father ever provided any financial support, or in any other way acknowledged - through letters or gifts - that the child was his. A picture of the alleged father with the child is helpful, as well as any information from others who could confirm your relationship with him.

How is paternity established?

If the father and mother were not married at the time of the child's birth, an Affidavit of Acknowledging Paternity or a court order naming the legal father establishes paternity. The alleged father may voluntarily admit that he is the father of the child. This can be done through the Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment Program of Arkansas that is offered at all birthing centers in Arkansas, all Child Support Enforcement offices, and all Vital Records offices.

In all cases where the alleged father does not admit paternity, a court hearing and/or paternity test can be scheduled. Paternity tests examine the genetic markers of the mother, alleged father, and the child. The paternity tests will either indicate the likelihood of paternity or exclude the alleged father. The alleged father must pay for the costs of the tests. If the alleged father is excluded (it is determined he is not the father), the mother may be required to pay for the tests.

I'm about to have a child and I am not married. How do I establish paternity and obtain an order for support?

Once the child is born you can complete the OCSE application for child support services. If the father is willing to sign documents admitting paternity and agreeing to support, then enforcement and collection can proceed. If the father will not admit paternity, it will be necessary for OCSE to contact the noncustodial parent regarding genetic testing. Enforcement action will proceed depending upon the outcome of the genetic testing.

The father of my child said I would never get a paternity judgment on him because he would just leave the state. What happens in this case?

OCSE will ask the state child support agency in the putative father's state of residence to assist in establishing paternity and a support obligation and then assist in enforcing that obligation.

Do I need to establish paternity now if the father and I are getting along and he's helping me support our child?

It is always best to establish legal parentage for the child so that the child will qualify for certain benefits, such as the father's health insurance or social security.

What if I don't know who the father is?

Provide as much information as you have on the person you believe to be the father of the child. DNA testing will be arranged to determine the possibility of paternity. If the father could be one of several men, each may be required to take a genetic test. These tests are very accurate, and it is almost always possible to determine who fathered a baby and to rule out anyone who did not.

I am applying for public assistance. Do I have to provide information about the father?

To be eligible for assistance programs through DHS, you must provide information to help to identify the father and collect child support from him. Any child support collected will be used to help support your children - going either directly to you or to repay the state for your assistance grant. Your child support caseworker will explain how the child support collected will be applied.

If you are afraid that the father will hurt you or your child, you will need to contact your DHS caseworker and explain your concerns. If DHS determines that you have good cause not to cooperate with OCSE, they will notify OCSE to close your case.

Who pays for the tests if I am not on public assistance?

If DNA testing proves the alleged father is the biological father, then he pays. If the tests prove the alleged father is not the biological father, then the custodial parent pays.

My children and I need money now. The noncustodial parent left us ten years ago. Can OCSE still take my case?

If you apply for services, OCSE will try to find the noncustodial parent to establish or enforce a child support order obligation. Be sure to give your caseworker all the information you have that might help find the parent.

OCSE can assist in establishing paternity for children under 18. If the child is 18 or older, you will need to seek the advice of an attorney.

What happens after paternity is established?

If it becomes necessary to establish a child support order, the OCSE caseworker may discuss the child's financial and medical needs with the father and what he is required to pay for child support according to the state child support guidelines. OCSE will then ask the court to establish an order for support.

Paternity Questions for Fathers

How can OCSE assist with establishing paternity?

If the custodial parent applies for OCSE services, OCSE can take steps to establish paternity for a child. Arkansas law does not allow OCSE to petition the court to establish paternity on behalf of the noncustodial parent. If a case is not open with OCSE by the custodial parent, then you may wish to seek the advice of a private attorney.

What is paternity acknowledgment?

Paternity acknowledgment is one way a child's father can become the legal father when the parents are not married to each other. If both parents agree to sign the paternity acknowledgment form, the parents do not have to go to court to establish paternity for their child.

How is paternity established?

If the father and mother were not married at the time of the child's birth, an Affidavit of Acknowledging Paternity or a court order naming the legal father establishes paternity. The alleged father may voluntarily admit that he is the father of the child. This can be done through the Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment Program of Arkansas that is offered at all birthing centers in Arkansas, all Child Support Enforcement offices, and all Vital Records offices.

In cases where the alleged father does not admit paternity, a court hearing and/or paternity test can be scheduled. Paternity tests examine the genetic markers of the mother, alleged father, and the child. The paternity tests will either indicate the likelihood of paternity or exclude the alleged father is excluded (it is determined he is not the father), the mother may be required to pay for the tests.

What is so important about establishing paternity?

Paternity helps children have a relationship with both parents, receive financial support from both parents, and qualify for benefits, such as father's health insurance or Social Security. Paternity helps fathers have a relationship with their child and request the right to visit the child. There are strong indications that children whose fathers take active roles in their upbringing lead more successful lives.

Will establishing paternity give me visitation and custody rights?

Signing the acknowledgment form does not automatically give a parent the right to visitation or custody. The father may use the form to ask the court to establish these rights. If the parents are in agreement, either parent may ask the court for an order to establish their rights to visitation or custody. Parents should ask their attorney about the law.

Will I have to pay child support if I sign the Voluntary Affidavit of Paternity?

Signing the Voluntary Affidavit of Paternity establishes the legal father of the child. The court may be asked to establish the support obligation at a later time.

How can I be sure the child is mine?

You may request DNA testing prior to signing the Voluntary Affidavit of Paternity. OCSE can assist you provided the custodial parent has opened a case with OCSE. DNA testing is available privately, as well.

The mother is married to or is going to marry someone else. Why should I have to pay support?

If the mother was married when she became pregnant or anytime while she was pregnant, but the husband is not the biological father, OCSE will assist the custodial parent in establishing paternity and court ordered support from the biological father of the child.

I signed a paper saying I was the father, but now I don't think I am. What can I do?

OCSE is not authorized to disestablish paternity. You may wish to consult with the court and/or a private attorney.

Locating the Noncustodial Parent

Can OCSE help find a noncustodial parent who is constantly moving?

Yes. OCSE will attempt to find the parent using whatever information is provided by the custodial parent and from other sources. The most important information in finding missing parents is their Social Security number. If the Social Security number is unknown, other information such as date of birth, friends, relatives and former employers should be provided. The more you take an active role in getting information to your caseworker, the more success you will have in obtaining regular and full child support payments for your children.

My child's noncustodial parent is stationed somewhere for the military, but I don't know where. Can OCSE find the noncustodial parent?

Yes. The Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS) can provide the current duty station of a parent who is any branch of the service if OCSE has the noncustodial parent's Social Security number.

I think the noncustodial parent is still in the area. What information will OCSE need to find them?

Most important are the Social Security number and any recent employer's name and address. Also helpful are the names, addresses, and phone numbers of relatives, friends, or former employers who might know where he/she works or lives.

What will happen when the caseworker has the current address of the noncustodial parent?

The worker will verify the home and work addresses, and take the next appropriate action on the case, which may include asking the noncustodial parent to come to an OCSE office for an interview, or notifying him/her that legal action may be taken.

Receiving Support

How does OCSE process payments?

OCSE processes approximately 8,000 payments each business day. OCSE receives payments by mail and electronically. OCSE images and records all payments it receives by mail and deposits all payments promptly. Payments are credited by the Payor's name and nine-digit OCSE case number. If the case number has not been provided, a payment may be identified by the Social Security number of the Payor. If a payment is properly identified and there is no incomplete information, then the payment is generally credited to the appropriate account within one business day of OCSE receiving it. If the custodial parent has Direct Deposit, then the payment is usually deposited into their bank account within two business days after receipt.

How long does it take for OCSE to receive a payment?

When OCSE initiates income withholding, the employer or business receiving the order/notice to withhold wages for the payment of child support must begin withholding no later than the first pay period that occurs after 14 days following the date the notice was mailed. The law requires OCSE to send you support within two business days after receipt and identification of the payment.

Does my case qualify for IRS tax refund offset?

If the noncustodial parent has an IRS refund due, the IRS will withhold all or part of the refund check to pay a past-due support debt. Only the state where you applied for services can ask the IRS to attach a tax refund check. OCSE uses the following criteria for IRS refund tax offset:

  • The noncustodial parent's Social Security number is on the case record.
  • The past-due amount owed to you must be $500 or more.
  • The amount must have accrued under a valid support order and OCSE must have a copy on file.
  • The child must live with the custodial parent and be under the age of majority at the time of the offset.

If the children ever received public assistance, back support may be owed to the state. The amount owed to the state must equal $150 or more and be three months past due to qualify for tax-refund offset. When OCSE receives a tax refund from the IRS, the law requires that it pay off the state debt first.

When will I receive the IRS refund I'm owed?

The IRS sends payments to OCSE about six to eight weeks after the filing of the tax return. The Department of Treasury has encouraged states to hold collections from joint tax returns for up to six months to allow the spouse of the noncustodial parent opportunity to file a claim for their share of the refund with the IRS. Check with the OCSE office managing your case to determine if the money has been collected and, if so, when you can expect to receive it. Keep in mind that any money owed for cash assistance provided to the family must be repaid first.

Why do I have to let OCSE know when the noncustodial parent gets a new job or moves? Isn't it their job to locate the noncustodial parent?

The custodial parent should keep OCSE informed of any changes in employment or address for themselves as well as the noncustodial parent. OCSE must rely on data matches to locate the noncustodial parent's address, employer, or assets. Oftentimes, the custodial parent will have information before a data match is received.

My court order states the noncustodial parent is to make payments on the first of the month. Why does OCSE give the noncustodial parent the entire month to pay?

The majority of child support is paid through wage withholding. The employer is required to withhold child support based on its payroll periods, which may be weekly, biweekly, twice a month, or monthly. The employer should prorate the monthly obligation and withhold an appropriate amount from each paycheck. Payments are to be forwarded by the employer to the AR Child Support Clearinghouse the date the employee is paid.

Why does the amount of the check I receive change?

There are a number of reasons why payment amounts may vary. If the payments are being deducted from the noncustodial parent's wages, it is possible that his/her work hours vary. If the total support obligation cannot be paid from the noncustodial parent's wages, only a percentage of his/her wages can be deducted from the support owed. The law does not allow a person's entire wages to be withheld for support.

If a noncustodial parent has more than one support obligation, any payments made by an employer must be pro-rated among all the obligations.

Payments may also be reduced to pay for fees owed to OCSE by the custodial parent.

When should I expect a payment?

OCSE cannot guarantee that payments will be received on a consistent basis. If the payments are deducted from the noncustodial parents wages, the employer should remit the payments to OCSE according to the noncustodial parent's pay dates. Most payments received by OCSE come through the mail, and mail times will vary, especially during holiday periods.

A child support payment was credited to my case several days ago and usually I would have it by now, but I haven't received it. What should I do?

If you have Direct Deposit, you should first check with your bank about the deposit. If the bank does not have a record of the deposit, you will need to contact OCSE so the payment can be researched.

If you normally receive your checks by mail, time frames for mail delivery vary, and you should allow 14 calendar days after the check was mailed before reporting it as missing. If you have moved, you will need to notify OCSE immediately. Child support checks are not forwarded by the Post Office due to security reasons.

After 14 calendar days, if you still have not received your payment, you should notify OCSE so the check status can be researched. If the check has not been cashed, OCSE will send you an affidavit to complete and return with your notarized signature. After OCSE receives the notarized affidavit, a stop payment will be placed on the lost check and a replacement check will be issued within two days. If the check has been cashed OCSE will send you a forgery package to complete. After OCSE has received the complete forgery package, an investigation by OCSE and the bank must be conducted. If the matter becomes a criminal investigation, it may require several months before a replacement check can be issued. If you have a bank account in your name, you should also consider applying for Direct Deposit to avoid this type of problem.

How can I have my child support payments direct-deposited?

If you have a bank account in your name, you may complete an application for direct deposit and submit it to OCSE as instructed in the application.

I am going to change banks or bank accounts or I want to stop my Direct Deposit. What should I do?

You must complete a new application for direct deposit when you change banks or bank accounts. If you want to stop your payment from being direct-deposited, you may also use the same application form to submit your request.

Why did the arrears balance owed to me change when I have not received a payment for the amount of the change?

There are several reasons why the arrears balance may change without a payment being disbursed. OCSE may make adjustments to accounts based on proof of payments provided by one of the parties. OCSE sometimes learns after the fact that an order has been changed and must make adjustments to the account to reflect the change. OCSE is required to apply federal tax offset collections to the arrears balance upon receipt; however, if the collection results from the filing of a joint return, OCSE will hold the funds for a period of up to six months to allow for other possible claims on the funds before disbursing the collections. If a claim is made against the funds on hold by OCSE during the six-month period, another adjustment to the arrears balance will occur.

Will OCSE keep track of my child support payments to make sure they keep coming?

While your case remains open for enforcement, OCSE is required to monitor payments to make sure they are made regularly and fully. You should inform OCSE if payments are substantially late, in the wrong amount, or if you receive payments directly from a source other than OCSE. When you monitor your case, you can keep OCSE informed so that it can act quickly if needed.

Paying Child Support

What if the amount billed for income withholding through my employer does not match the court order?

Most court orders contain a provision requiring the employer to withhold an additional 10% to be applied toward child support arrears. There was recent change to the law, and in some cases the amount may now be 20%. For example, if the noncustodial parent owes $56.00 per week and there are arrears owed, the total due would be $61.60 ($56.00 for current support and $5.60 for arrears, computed at the 10% rate). The court can order a specific amount to be paid toward arrearages in addition to the monthly on-going child support amount. If you have questions regarding the amount that is withheld, please contact the agency that originated the wage withholding.

Additionally, the amount that can be withheld from an employee's wages is limited by the Federal Consumer Credit Protection Act to 50 percent of disposable income if an obligated parent has a second family and 60 percent if there is not second family. These limits are each increased by 5 percent (to 55% and 65%) if payments are in arrears for a period equal to 12 weeks or more.

Do I have any alternatives to income withholding?

All new or modified support orders normally require income withholding. However, the court may allow an exception by making a written finding that there is "good cause" to not order income withholding. To get this exception, you must show that withholding would not be in the best interest of the child and you have made your payments (if any) on time.

NOTE: You cannot get this exception if you had an exception to income withholding before and your withholding was reinstated because you missed payments.

My court order says to pay child support through the Clerk of Court. Can I do that, or do I have to make payments through the Arkansas Child Support Clearinghouse?

If you are employed and child support is being deducted from your wages, your employer is required by state law to send payments to the Arkansas Child Support Clearinghouse.

I've been paying child support, but now my child lives with me. What do I do?

You are required to pay child support until a court order is modified. You should seek the advice of legal counsel regarding a change in physical or legal custody.

How can I find out if a payment was made to the custodial parent?

You may call your caseworker, call the Arkansas Child Support Clearinghouse Customer Service at 866-428-8382, or you may look online at OCSE WebPay.

How can I dispute a collection action taken by OCSE?

OCSE uses many different collection tools to enforce child support. If you want OCSE to stop taking a particular action, the first step is to contact the caseworker who enforces your case. Your support enforcement caseworker has a duty to collect current support and arrears. The manner of collection and the amount of the arrears payment are sometimes negotiable if you work with your support enforcement caseworker and honor any agreements you make. There are situations, though, when your caseworker cannot release a collection action, even if you pay regularly. For example: in most cases, OCSE must keep wage withholding in place if we know where you work; if you owe back child support we must file a lien.

I am a noncustodial parent as well as a custodial parent. OCSE has stayed on me to pay support, and I do. But I can't get a dime from my ex-spouse. What is the problem?

You are to be commended for complying with your court order. Unfortunately, not all cases are alike. While our goal is to collect support for every child in our caseload, success is determined on an individual case basis.

How does OCSE process payments?

OCSE processes approximately 8,000 payments each business day. OCSE receives payments by mail and electronically. OCSE images all payments it receives by mail and deposits all payments promptly. Payments are credited by the Payor's name and nine-digit case number. If the case number has not been provided, a payment may be identified by the Social Security number of the Payor. If a payment is properly identified and there is no incomplete information, then the payment is generally credited to the appropriate account within one business day of OCSE receiving it. If the custodial parent has Direct Deposit, then the payment is usually deposited into their account within two business days. If you have not chosen Direct Deposit, a check is mailed within two business days.

If the payments are supposed to be deducted from my wages and that hasn't started yet, what should I do?

You are responsible for your child support payments. If they are not deducted from your wages, then you must send in the payments yourself to the Arkansas Child Support Clearinghouse. You also must notify the local office managing your case of where you are working.

What happens if the check OCSE receives from an employer or noncustodial parent is returned for insufficient funds?

The check is processed through the bank twice, and if after two times there are still insufficient funds, then OCSE takes steps to recover the funds from the payor. The custodial parent receiving the funds is not asked to refund the payment they received from OCSE as a result of an insufficient check.

When current child support is no longer owed, what happens to the arrears owed?

OCSE will continue to collect the arrears that are owed and can use most of the same enforcement methods used to collect current support.

Enforcing a Child Support Order

How does OCSE collect child support?

OCSE has numerous tools available to assist custodial parents in collecting current child support and arrearages associated with support. One of the primary tools or methods is to attach the wages of the noncustodial parent through income withholding. OCSE can also file property liens, report child support debts to credit agencies, and suspend driver's and other licenses, intercept income tax refunds, prepare your case for court action, and petition another state for assistance when needed. This list below contains some of the actions OCSE can take to enforce support.

  • Attach wages through income withholding orders
  • Attach unemployment compensation
  • Attach workmen's compensation (Labor & Industries)
  • Attach pensions not protected under federal law
  • Attach non-earned funds payable to the noncustodial parent
  • Attach settlements as the result of lawsuits
  • Attach insurance claims
  • Attach funds in financial institutions
  • File liens with county auditors where real or personal property is located
  • File liens against vehicles licensed with the Department of Revenue
  • Seize property held in safety deposit boxes
  • Seize vehicles or other personal property for sale at public auction
  • Request the suspension of drivers, professional, and recreational licenses
  • Refer cases for contempt of court action
  • Attach federal IRS income tax refunds and other federal payable funds
  • Request that the U.S. State Department deny the issuance of a passport
  • Report debt to credit reporting agencies
  • Offset state income tax refunds
  • Refer cases to other states where the noncustodial parent resides for establishment or enforcement

Federal and state law require that OCSE wait until a certain amount of debt is reached before OCSE takes some actions, such as license suspension and tax offset certification. While OCSE cannot guarantee its success or collections, OCSE representatives will utilize all available enforcement actions to attempt to obtain the support to which your child is entitled.

What are the time frames for OCSE to take action on a case?

Time frames vary and each case is different. One of the most important steps that OCSE must take with almost every action is to serve the noncustodial parent with advance notice of the action. This is a legal requirement and allows the noncustodial parent "due process" to contest or appeal the action. Since many people move frequently and some people deliberately try to avoid being served with a notice of action, this often requires a long time to accomplish.

I do not know where the noncustodial parent is living. Can OCSE find him/her?

OCSE has many automated locate sources available for its use; however, you, as the custodial parent, are one of the best resources for information about a noncustodial parent, since you may learn of addresses, assets, or employment from friends and family before that information is available to OCSE through its sources. The more you take an active role in getting information to your caseworker, the more success you will have in obtaining regular and full child support payments for your children. OCSE staff uses locate sources available in OCSE offices. They are not able to physically search for individuals. Even with its sources and with your help, OCSE may still not be able to find a noncustodial parent. Some people are determined not to be found and may use extreme measures not to be located.

When does OCSE refer a case for court action?

OCSE has strong administrative methods to establish and enforce support orders, and usually refers cases for court action only when those administrative methods have been unsuccessful.

What happens after a noncustodial parent's debt is certified for interception of federal or state refunds?

In order for OCSE to receive any tax funds from this process, the noncustodial parent must be entitled to a refund due them from a tax return they have previously filed. For federal certification, a child must be under 18 during the tax year and the debt amount must be at least $500, unless the debt is owed to the State for public assistance benefits paid on behalf of a child. The noncustodial parent will receive a notice from the federal Department of Treasury stating that the funds will be sent to OCSE about 60 days before OCSE actually receives the funds. Once the funds are received the collection amount is applied to the debt. If the funds are received as a result of a joint return being filed with the IRS, the funds are held up to six months by OCSE before they are disbursed to the custodial parent to allow for possible claims to be filed that might require OCSE to return the funds to the source. If there is a debt owed to the State for public assistance benefits paid on behalf of a child, the collection must be applied to that State debt first. Debt amounts must be at least $100 in order to certify for state tax offset. Noncustodial parents will receive a separate notice from the State of Arkansas regarding the offset of a tax refund due them.

If the noncustodial parent receives Social Security benefits, can OCSE still collect support for me?

OCSE can usually assist a custodial parent in the collection of support from Social Security disability benefits, but SSI benefits cannot be attached for the payment of child support. Some courts may choose not to enter an order if a noncustodial parent receives Social Security benefits. Also, some courts may credit a lump sum paid to the dependents by the Social Security Administration toward the noncustodial parent's arrearage.

The noncustodial parent works sporadically and is paid in cash. Wage withholding won't work for me. What will?

Automatic billing, telephone reminders, and past due notices from OCSE might convince the noncustodial parent to make regular payments. Other methods - such as property attachment, credit bureau reporting, tax refund offset, garnishment, liens and suspension of occupational, professional, driver's licenses or recreational licenses - might work for the arrearages. If none of these are successful, OCSE may take the case to court for stronger enforcement methods.

The noncustodial parent has moved several times because of job relocation. Can wage withholding work in this case?

Yes. States must recognize the wage withholding orders from other states and continue the wage withholding as ordered, without regard to where the noncustodial parent or the custodial parent and children live. Also, State and Federal law now requires an employer to report within 20 days hiring any employee who fills out a W-4 form whether full time, part time, or student worker.

My children's noncustodial parent is retired from the military. Can military retirement checks be garnished for back child support?

Yes, it is possible to garnish the wages of active, reserve, and retired members of the military and Federal government civilian employees.

What if the noncustodial parent is in another state?

The most difficult child support cases to enforce are those in which the noncustodial parent lives in one state and the children in another. Each state has child support offices and an independent court system with varying laws and practices. Arkansas has no control over the child support offices and courts in other states, and therefore must depend on the other state to obtain a court date or to serve notice to the noncustodial parent. OCSE will, however, continue to monitor the case and request periodic updates from the other state on their progress with enforcement and upon request provide information to the custodial parent regarding the other state's activities.

My caseworker sent my case to another state to be worked. That was three months ago, and still no support payments. What's wrong?

It may be a number of things: enforcement officials may not be able to serve notice on the noncustodial parent due to inadequate address information; if a hearing is necessary, it may take a while to get a court date. Generally speaking, a state must complete service of process to begin an action within 90 days of locating the noncustodial parent, and the majority of orders should be established within six months from the date of service of process. Even though states try to be responsive, enforcement agencies have a very high demand for their services. An agency's ability to act rapidly depends on the characteristics of the case, the quality of information received, and the amount of staff and other resources they have to devote to it. Continue to keep in touch with your caseworker to resolve any delay or to provide any new information you may have.

As soon as the noncustodial parent is notified about enforcement, they move. How will I ever be able to collect support?

It is difficult to enforce child support payments when the noncustodial parent intentionally moves to avoid paying. Try to be an active participant in your case. Whenever you learn that the noncustodial parent has moved or has a new job, you should tell your caseworker as soon as possible. OCSE will continue to take every enforcement step available to locate the noncustodial parent and enforce the order for support.

Can my attorney work on my child support problem while I am receiving services from OCSE?

Your attorney can work with OCSE. For best results, the attorney and staff of OCSE should coordinate their efforts to prevent duplication of services and conflicting enforcement decisions.

Medical Support

I can't get health information with my job, but my ex-spouse has good benefits through work. Can the noncustodial parent be required to carry children on insurance provided through a job?

Yes. OCSE is required to petition the court to establish a medical support order in all new or modified support orders unless the custodian and children have satisfactory health insurance benefits other than Medicaid. This is required whether or not health insurance is available to the noncustodial parent at a reasonable cost or modification of current coverage to include the child is immediately possible.

Can OCSE help enforce an order for medical insurance coverage for the children?

Yes. The custodial parent needs to indicate on the application for services that an order for medical insurance coverage exists, and that the agency should help enforce it. If the custodial parent is receiving public assistance benefits, OCSE will automatically enforce medical coverage for the child.

Will OCSE establish and enforce medical support?

When OCSE petitions the court to establish a support order, OCSE always includes a request for a medical support provision requiring the noncustodial parent to provide medical insurance when available through an employer or union. If the judge grants that request, OCSE will enforce the medical support provision ordered by the court.

If you have a support order with a medical provision, OCSE will enforce medical support along with child support enforcement. You must request OCSE services to have support enforced.

If your child's support order does not require medical insurance, OCSE may be able to help you get that order modified to include an insurance requirement.

OCSE does not enforce uninsured medical expenses, unless you get a court-ordered judgment for payment. OCSE does not collect uninsured medical expenses owed to a third party.

The noncustodial parent is ordered to provide medical support, but I don't trust that the parent will stay on the job and maintain medical insurance. I have medical insurance and want to provide it for the children. What do I do?

If you will provide proof of insurance to your caseworker and it is your desire that OCSE does not pursue for the noncustodial parent to provide medical support, then OCSE will honor that request.

Review of Order Amounts

Who can request a review of an order?

Either parent can get help to have a child support order reviewed at least every three years, or whenever there is a substantial change in circumstances, to ensure that the order remains fair.

What happens when a child support order is reviewed?

The order amount may increase or decrease, or there may be no change to the order.

Where should I ask for a review?

If you have a case managed by OCSE, you should request a review in writing to the child support office that you normally contact for assistance. If you do not have a case with OCSE, you will need to consult with the court or a private attorney, or apply for services with OCSE.

How often can my order be reviewed?

Generally, child support obligations may be reviewed and adjusted, if appropriate, once every 36 months at the request of either parent. There must be a change in the noncustodial parent's gross income in an amount equal to or more than 20%, or more than $100 per month, in order to petition the court for modification of the child support amount.

I just lost my job and can't afford to pay the support I'm ordered to pay. What can I do?

Your support obligation does not change or stop when you lose your job. You remain financially responsible for your child or children and should continue to make your child support payments while between jobs. It is expected you will soon return to gainful employment. An order for support is a legal obligation and failure to comply with such an order can have negative consequences for you. If you anticipate a significant period of unemployment, you may wish to submit a written request that OCSE conduct a review of your obligation amount or petition the appropriate court for a possible modification of the order. If you receive Unemployment Insurance Benefits, your child support may be withheld from those benefits.

One of my children just turned 18. Will my child support payments change?

Yes. Arkansas law provides for an automatic adjustment to the support amount for the remaining minor children as each child emancipates. The support amount must be recalculated based on the current income of the noncustodial parent utilizing the most recent version of the Arkansas Support Guidelines. You might consider requesting a review of your existing support order to ensure that the amount you will be paying for the remaining children is in line with your current income and the Arkansas Support Guidelines.

What can I do to get my support increased if it is too low?

Check with OCSE or your attorney to see if your support order should be modified. If your support amount is found to be low based on the current financial situation of the noncustodial parent, a legal modification of your order can be sought.

Custodial Parties/Dependents on Public Assistance

I am applying for assistance under the Arkansas Transitional Employment Assistance Program (TEA) through the Department of Health and Human Services. Am I required to seek child support from the noncustodial parent for my child/children?

Yes, federal and State law requires that you cooperate with OCSE to establish paternity and a court order for support, if needed, and to enforce the established support order or an existing court order for support as applicable.

Why are child support payments collected by OCSE retained by the State instead of going to the family when the custodial parent receives public assistance through TEA?

By accepting cash payments from the Arkansas Transitional Employment Assistance Program (TEA), the custodial party agrees to repay the State and federal government for the money paid to the family. OCSE retains child support payments collected in an amount equal to the amount paid to the family through the TEA grant. Child support collections in excess of the grant are paid to the family.

Parents With Children In State Custody

Why do I have to pay child support when my child is in state custody?

It is the responsibility of the parents to provide financial and medical support for their children. Even though the child may not be living with you, you are still responsible for that child's financial support.

Incarceration/Jail

The noncustodial parent was just sentenced to prison. What happens to my child support payments?

Unless the noncustodial parent is participating in a work-release program or has other attachable assets, OCSE has no way to collect support from an incarcerated noncustodial parent. The court order remains in effect and support continues to accrue and be owed. It may be possible to establish paternity while an alleged father is incarcerated. Once the noncustodial parent is released from prison, enforcement and collection efforts will proceed.

Can OCSE put noncustodial parents in jail if they don't pay?

No. OCSE representatives may petition the court and OCSE attorneys may request the respondent be given jail time, but it is a judge's decision whether to order a jail sentence. Since most noncustodial parents cannot pay support when incarcerated, a judge usually only orders incarceration as a last resort in child support cases. Unfortunately, for some individuals, it is necessary.

Custody/Visitation

Can OCSE help with questions or problems about visitation, custody, or property settlement matters?

No. OCSE has no authority to assist either party with these matters. These issues must be addressed through a private attorney or the court. However, the Arkansas Access and Visitation Mediation Program may be able to help you resolve these issues through mediation.

I'm a noncustodial parent. Do I have to pay child support if the custodial parent won't let me see my child?

Both parents must comply with the order of the court; however, OCSE is only authorized to address issues related to the enforcement of the financial and medical support portions of the order. OCSE is not authorized to address custody and visitation issues. These issues must be addressed through a private attorney of the court.

I'm a custodial parent. The noncustodial parent doesn't pay child support. Do I have to let the noncustodial parent see the children?

OCSE is not authorized to address custody and visitation issues. These issues must be addressed through a private attorney or the court.

How does a change in physical custody of the child affect child support?

If current child support is owed for a dependent child and OCSE has a case for a child, OCSE works to direct the support to the individual or agency that has physical custody of the child. Past-due support is usually owed to the individual who had physical custody of the child when the support was initially due.

Who should notify OCSE if a child's custody changes?

If OCSE has a case for a child, both the custodial and noncustodial parents should notify OCSE in writing of a change in custody, and provide either a copy of a court order that shows the custody change, or school or other government records that reflect who has physical custody of the child.

Closing a Case

How do I close my case with OCSE?

If you no longer want OCSE to enforce and manage your case, you may send a signed letter to the local office handling your case requesting that your case be closed. Please include your case number on the request. When you close your case, the case will become a non-enforcement case in the OCSE system and OCSE will no longer take any action in enforcing or managing the case. However, payments are required by state law to continue being processed through the Arkansas Child Support Clearinghouse.

If I close my case with OCSE, am I entitled to any services?

The Arkansas Child Support Clearinghouse will provide the following services only in a non-enforcement case:

  • Post and disburse payments received by the Clearinghouse;
  • Change your mailing address if requested in writing;
  • Assist you if a check payable to you and issued by the Clearinghouse is lost or stolen; and
  • Provide payment information upon your request.

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