Child Support, COVID-19, and Unemployment Benefits
On March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was enacted. The Act included provisions to increase and expand states' unemployment insurance programs. For an explanation of the provisions or if you need information about your eligibility for unemployment benefits, go to the websites of the Department of Labor or to the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services.
In order for OCSE to receive child support payments from the Department of Workforce Services (DWS), a court order must include language to withhold child support from unemployment insurance benefits or the noncustodial parent must agree in writing that DWS can withhold court-ordered child support. If the court order does not direct DWS to withhold or if the noncustodial parent will not agree, the court order must be modified (changed) before OCSE can withhold from unemployment benefits. The noncustodial parent continues to be responsible for the court-ordered child support amounts regardless of whether DWS withholds child support or not.
Questions and Answers
Why is DWS withholding the same amount of payment from normal unemployment benefits and the $600 per week payment?
If DWS is withholding child support from regular unemployment, DWS will also withhold the weekly current support and arrears obligation from Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), which is the provision that provides the additional $600 per week. If the combination of the regular unemployment withholding and the amount from FPUC exceeds the weekly obligation amount, any remaining funds will be refunded to the noncustodial parent.
Why would the noncustodial parent receive a refund when he or she owes past-due child support?
The amount that may be withheld from periodic income, such as unemployment insurance benefits, for current child support and arrears is set by court order and state law. If DWS' withholding exceeds that amount, OCSE will refund the excess to the noncustodial parent.
Will OCSE take both the $1,200 stimulus payment and the $600 unemployment payment?
The stimulus payment is paid from the IRS and is a part of the federal tax offset program, eligible to be intercepted up to the full amount of past-due child support. For more information on the federal stimulus payment, see Child Support and the Federal Stimulus on this website.
The $600 per week additional unemployment payment is made through DWS through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) provision of the CARES Act. If DWS is withholding child support from regular unemployment, DWS will also withhold the weekly current support and arrears obligation from FPUC. If the combination of the regular unemployment and the amount from FPUC exceeds the weekly obligation amount, any remaining funds will be refunded to the noncustodial parent.