Top 5 Questions About North Dakota Child Support

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As a parent, your children are one of your top priorities. But supporting them financially, especially if you do not live in the same household, can be challenging. Will you be able to support your children and have enough to live on yourself? How can you make sure the money you pay for child support is really going for your kids’ needs? As family law attorneys, we get a lot of questions about North Dakota child support. Here are some of the most common:  

Do I Have to Pay Child Support?

If your ex has primary residential responsibility (physical custody) of your children, the answer to this question is almost always “yes.” The parent with primary residential responsibility is called the obligee, and the one who does not live with the children most of the time is called the obligor.

As the name suggests, the obligor is obligated to pay child support. North Dakota courts have made clear that child support is a duty that a parent owes to their children, not to the other parent. For this reason, you and the other parent cannot agree that you will not pay child support, even if you give the other parent something of value in exchange for this agreement.

You may need to pay child support even if you and the other parent share residential responsibility for  your children. If you have equal custody, a child support obligation will be calculated for both of you, and then offset, with the person who has the greater obligation paying the difference between the two amounts to the person with the lesser obligation.

What Can I Do if My Ex Isn’t Spending My Child Support Payments on the Kids?

Unfortunately, not much. Your ex has some expenses that will relate directly to the children (their clothing, costs for lessons and field trips, etc.) and others that are necessary for the children’s well-being, but not exclusively about them (mortgage or rent, utilities, groceries, car payments, etc.) You are not entitled to an accounting of what your ex spends and what portion of your child support payment is spent on which expenses.

You may see that your ex has spent money on something that he or she would not have been able to afford if you were not contributing financially, and that may make you angry. He or she may be spending money on the children differently than you would. But unless the children’s needs are being neglected, you don’t have a say in how child support gets spent. If you truly believe the children’s needs are not being met, of course, speak to your attorney about your options to protect them.

My Ex Makes Almost as Much as I Do. Is Their Income Considered in Child Support Calculations?

In North Dakota, the obligor’s income is almost always the only one taken into account when calculating child support. The obligee’s income is considered only if it is at least three times that of the obligor, which doesn’t happen very often. It is also considered when parties have equal residential responsibility.  Again, however, it’s helpful to remember that your child support payments are not for your child’s other parent, but for the children.

Failing to take the obligee’s income into account may not seem fair, but you may be comforted to know that in other states that do take the obligee’s income into account, because of other differences in the calculations, the outcome is similar.

Does Overtime Pay Count Toward My Income When Calculating Child Support?

Most likely. North Dakota child support guidelines specifically reference “overtime wages” as gross income for the purposes of child support calculation. However, if you do not receive overtime on a regular basis, counting overtime pay when calculating child support may not be fair; it could give you an obligation based on income you do not regularly receive. Let your attorney know about your overtime situation. If he or she can persuade the court that your overtime is atypical, it may be excluded from calculating  your child support obligation.

Can I Make My Child Support Payments Directly to My Child’s Other Parent?

No, and honestly, you don’t want to. The system is set up to protect both the obligor and obligee by tracking payments. What if you paid your child’s other parent in cash, and then he or she denied that you had done so?

In North Dakota, payments go through the State Disbursement Unit (SDU) if the child support order originated in North Dakota or if North Dakota is enforcing an order from another state. If you and the other parent try to do an “end-run” around the SDU system, you may wind up not getting credit for payments you have actually made.

Additionally, most obligors are subject to North Dakota’s child support  income withholding provisions, where your employer will directly withhold your child support from your wages or salary and directly transmit the funds to the SDU so the SDU can then send them to the obligee. This avoids obligors having to remember to send payments in on time themselves.  

If you have other questions about North Dakota child support, or have concerns about your particular situation, it is best to speak directly with an experienced child support attorney. We invite you to contact Fremstad Law to schedule a consultation.