Child support is a contentious issue that needs to be addressed in a divorce or between unmarried parents. Fortunately, Louisiana has a guideline formula for determining child support that can help resolve disputes.
In this guide, you’ll learn:
- Who Pays Child Support in Louisiana?
- How is Child Support Determined in Louisiana?
- Adjustments to Basic Child Support
- How Health Insurance is Handled
- When Child Support Ends
- Child Support and Taxes
- How to Request Child Support
- Enforcing Louisiana Child Support Orders
- How to Modify the Amount of Child Support
- Establishing Paternity
- Which Agency Handles Child Support in Louisiana?
Who Must Pay Child Support in Louisiana?
Louisiana’s laws about child support are an extension of a basic principle in family law – the interests of children come first.
As such, both parents must support their child’s financial, emotional, and medical needs, even if the couple separates or divorces. This means that both parents remain responsible for the expenses incurred in raising a child.
Generally, however, the parents’ custody arrangement will impact a child support award. A married, unmarried, or divorced parent, who has physical custody of a child is called the domiciliary parent and can get child support. Child support is usually paid to the domiciliary parent in Louisiana.
Although the custodial parent is also responsible for financially supporting the child, the law assumes that this parent spends the required amount directly on the child.
Nonparents such as grandparents can get child support from the biological parents if they have legal custody of a child.
How is Child Support Determined in Louisiana?
Child Support Enforcement uses Louisiana’s Child Support Guidelines and the courts to determine the amount of child support non-custodial parents must pay.
The Louisiana Legislature established the Child Support Award Guidelines based on the income of both parties. The non-custodial parent must pay an amount based on their percentage of the total income and the specific needs and expenses of the child.
The basic Louisiana child support obligation is also calculated considering the following:
- The amount of any preexisting court order for child support and spousal support paid is deducted from the gross income of the non-custodial parent.
- Net child care costs incurred due to employment or job search (minus the value of the federal tax credit for child care) or reasonable child care expenses incurred while either parent is receiving job training or education necessary to obtain employment or enhance earning potential can be added to the basic obligation.
- If either parent carries health insurance for the child(ren) due support, the cost of that coverage is added to the basic child support obligation.
- A provision may also be made for extraordinary expenses of a child, such as medical or special or private schooling needs, by agreement of the parties or order of the court.
Unlike other states, Louisiana gives no automatic parenting time credit that can reduce a child support amount. The only way parenting time can influence the amount of child support is if the court deems the visitations substantially exceed those usually approved by the court.
In joint custody cases, the court considers the amount of time the child spends with each parent as a basis for adjustment to the amount of child support paid during that period. Another factor is how many children are in a household.
Louisiana Revised Statute 9:315.1(B) allows a trial judge to deviate from the guideline schedule if the application is not in the child’s best interest or would be inequitable to the parties.
Both parents much complete Obligation Worksheet A.
This details gross income, which includes income from any source, including salaries, wages, commissions, bonuses, dividends, severance pay, pensions, interest, trust income, annuities, capital gains, social security benefits, worker’s compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, disability insurance benefits, and spousal support received from a pre-existing spousal support obligation.
The income of a spouse is not considered in this calculation.
Louisiana child support awards are established by combined monthly adjusted income. You can go here to view the schedules.
For cases with a combined monthly adjusted gross income above $40,000, the child support obligation should be determined on a case-by-case basis.
It is the parent’s responsibility to find employment. If either parent is unemployed, the court can “impute” income. If a parent has an established history of earning $30,000 a year and is unemployed, the court will find that parent capable of earning that amount. That amount will be used to calculate the support obligation.
Also, Louisiana does not discriminate against children born out of wedlock. The law on child support is the same whether parents are married or not. However, paternity must be established before child support can be ordered.
Unlike many other states, Louisiana gives no automatic parenting time credit that can reduce your child support amount.
Read More: Louisiana Divorce Guide
Adjustments to Basic Child Support
After a basic child support amount is determined, extraordinary medical expenses are added to the basic support obligation. Other extraordinary expenses (i.e., education expenses, transportation expenses, and expenses intended to enhance a child’s health, athletic, social, or cultural development) can also be added if the court finds these expenses reasonable and necessary.
Parents who purposely avoid child support financial obligations and hide from the court system can result in CSE getting involved. The state will try to get the court papers to them, so they know about the hearing date. The state will try to find the absent parent using their social security number. As a last resort, the court may appoint a curator ad hoc to represent the absent parent. The curator ad hoc will be served with the court papers and will represent the absent parent at the child support hearing.
Louisiana’s child support formula uses the following information to calculate your monthly amounts for joint custody child support:
The cost of health insurance premiums for the children can also impact the final support amount.
Can I get child support from the other parent if they are disabled or cannot work and receive SSI or SSDI?
You will not be able to receive child support if the other parent is receiving SSI and can prove that they cannot work. But you may be able to receive child support if the other parent is receiving SSDI (disability insurance).
What help is available if the other parent lives in a different state?
CSE works with all other states, U.S. territories, and some foreign countries to help provide child support services.
Is Health Insurance Considered a Part of Child Support?
Determining which parent pays health insurance is part of a child support order. If health insurance is available at a reasonable cost, the parent must ensure coverage is provided through an employer or union. Other provisions must be made when it isn’t available.
Louisiana has specialized guidelines for sharing a child’s extraordinary medical care costs. These are separate and in addition to basic child support payments. Extraordinary medical costs may include costs due to illness, hospital visits, or procedures such as getting braces.
Louisiana treats extraordinary medical care costs as a mandatory deduction for basic child support. Suppose the non-custodial parent pays child care costs. In that case, the portion of the total monthly child care costs attributed to the custodial partner is deducted from the noncustodial partner’s monthly child support payment.
Child Care Expenses
Louisiana’s guidelines consider child care costs separately from the general costs of raising a child to calculate child support payments.
Child care costs are also treated as a mandatory deduction for basic child support.
When Does Child Support End in Louisiana?
The obligation to pay support usually ends when a child reaches 18. Support can end earlier if the child emancipates, gets married, joins the military, or passes away.
However, an 18-year-old continues to get child support if they are a “full-time” student in a “secondary school” in “good standing.” Different schools may have different definitions of “full time,” so it’s essential to check with the school’s administration.
If a child graduates after age 18 but before age 19, your support obligation ends on graduation day. Regardless of whether they are in school, the support obligation ends once a child is 19 years old.
An 18-year-old gets child support to age 22 if they suffer from a “developmental disability” that is severe, chronic, and shows itself before the child is 22. The disability must significantly limit the child’s ability to care for themselves, speak or understand words, make a living, and be independent.
Disability does not include substance abuse or addiction.
Support may also continue past 18 if divorcing parents enter into agreements to pay for a child’s expenses, such as when a child attends college or vocational school.
Child Support and Taxes
Child support payments are not deductible by the payer or taxable to the recipient. Don’t include child support payments received when you calculate your gross income.
However, you may be able to claim the child as a dependent. Generally, the custodial parent is treated as one who provides more than half of the child’s support. In some cases, the noncustodial parent may be treated as the parent who provided more than half of the child’s support.
Many agreements include a provision that each parent declares half the children as dependents when there is an even number of children. Parents can alternate years claiming the child for an odd number of children. In this situation, parents may need to submit Form 8332, Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent, or a similar statement.
How to Request Child Support
You can get child support if the other parent agrees to pay you money to help raise a child.
You may also get child support from that parent by filing papers with the court. These papers are called a Rule for Child Support or Petition for Divorce.
You may use Child Support Enforcement Services to help you. You work with the caseworker, who will work with the District Attorney’s Office for you. The district attorney will file court papers to help you get child support. You can also hire a private attorney or use a legal services attorney.
There are several ways to apply for services. You can use the following forms to open your case.
- Online Application
- Direct Deposit Authorization Form
- DCFS Stored Value Card Disclosures
- Application Fee
You can get child support if the other parent agrees to pay you money to help raise a child.
If you have questions about child support, the best place to start is by calling the Child Support Enforcement Services office in your area. You may have to pay a small fee for services.
You may file a petition for divorce requesting child support in a state district court, or you can file a rule for child support in a state district or juvenile court. You file papers for child support in the parish where you and your child live, where the father of the child lives, where the child was conceived or born, or where the father acknowledges that he is the father of the child.
Read More: 50 Ways to Prepare for Divorce
Enforcing Louisiana Child Support Orders
CSE can enforce payment of support by:
- Income assignment
- Interception of state and federal tax refunds
- Interception of lottery winnings
- Suspension of occupational, professional, drivers’, hunting, and fishing licenses
- Suspension of motor vehicle registration
- Passport denials
- Contempt of court hearings
If a parent gets a child support order with the help of CSE, they should speak to their caseworker. The caseworker will contact the parent and try to work out payment arrangements. The caseworker could go to court through the District Attorney’s Office and file a Rule for Contempt. The other parent will be called back into court for a contempt hearing and can be put in jail for not paying child support.
If a parent owes past due support by does not work and has no money, the parent seeking support can take the other parent back to court with help from CSE or an attorney. The court will order the other parent to pay child support based on the minimum wage or their past or potential earning capacity. This is known as imputing income.
How to Modify the Amount of Child Support
If your circumstances have changed, your order may be eligible for modification. The side asking the court to change the amount of child support must show a “material change in the circumstances of one of the parties between the time of the previous award and the rule for modification of the award.”
Before CSE requests a modification with the court, they will review to verify the custodial and non-custodial parent’s employment status, income, and any other relevant information.
A child support order is eligible for modification only if the review shows that at least one of the following is true:
- The order was established/last modified more than three years ago
- The monthly amount of the child support order differs by at least 25% according to child support guidelines
- Since the child support order was last set, a material and substantial change in circumstances have occurred. A material change can include a job loss, severe illness, incarceration, the children living with a different parent, or other similar events.
If you have an open child support case, the fastest way to get a modification is to submit an official Request for Review.
You can also request a review in the following ways:
- Contact the DCFS Customer Service Center at 1-888-524-3578 to request a review.
- Send a message to your worker through the CAFÉ Self Service Portal, Child Support Enforcement Message Center
- Print, complete, and submit the “Request for Review” form along with documentation and mail it to:
DCFS Document Processing Center / Child Support Enforcement
P.O. Box 260032
Baton Rouge, LA 70826
You can also file directly with the clerk of the court that issued your order. Use the SES 668 Rule to Modify Child Support. Each court has different procedures and fees so it’s advisable to contact the clerk for additional information about forms, filing fee(s), and ways that the court can assist you.
To process your request, the court needs income, child care costs, and other expense information within 30 days of your request. Do not send original documents:
Make sure you have a valid reason before seeking a modification. Louisiana Revised Statutes 9:311 says: ” If the court does not find good cause sufficient to justify an order to modify child support or the motion is dismissed before a hearing, it may order the mover to pay all court costs and reasonable attorney fees of the other party if the court determines the motion was frivolous.” La. Rev. Stat. 9:311(E).
Establishing Paternity in Louisiana
Establishing paternity provides children with several benefits.
Child support orders cannot be established until paternity has been determined. By knowing their medical history, children sometimes inherit health problems that can be treated better if the doctor knows both parents’ medical histories. Acknowledged children may also have the right to other benefits, including Social Security, Veteran’s benefits, and medical insurance, as well as the right to inherit from both parents.
Paternity is established in Louisiana by signing an acknowledgment of paternity or by a court determining who is the biological father.
Acknowledging paternity establishes who is the biological father when the parents are not married to each other. The parents can sign an Affidavit of Acknowledgment at the hospital when the child is born or at a later date. The acknowledgment is subsequently filed with the State Vital Records Registrar.
If an alleged father refuses to sign an acknowledgment of paternity, CSE attorneys or contract District Attorneys may file a paternity suit asking the court to determine paternity.
The suit may require the alleged father to undergo genetic testing to confirm or rule out paternity.
CSE contracts with genetic testing laboratories that will examine a DNA sample and report back to the court. In Louisiana, the probability of paternity must be 99.9% or higher.
Child Support Enforcement has no authority in custody and visitation issues. After the alleged father signs an Affidavit of Acknowledgment, he has the right to pursue visitation with the child and the right to petition the court for custody.
Which Agency Handles Child Support in Louisiana?
In Louisiana, the Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) Child Support Enforcement Section administers the child support program.
Child support cases are generally assigned to three categories: intake, collections, or parent locate.
- An intake case is one in which an order for support and paternity has not yet been established.
- A collection case is one in which an enforceable order for support exists.
- A case in parent locate is one in which the location, place of employment, or assets of the noncustodial parent are unknown.
The Child Support Enforcement staff is located in Louisiana Child Support Offices. These offices serve all 64 parishes in the state.
The agency also has cooperative agreements with 40 District Attorneys in the state. District Attorneys’ scope varies depending on the services a particular District Attorney is contracted to provide.
CSE provides the following services:
- Parent Locator Service
- Paternity Establishment
- Establishing Orders (Determination Of Child Support and Medical Support)
- Enforcing Orders
- Collection and Distribution
If you have questions about child support, call the Customer Service Center at 1-888-LAHELP-U (1-888-524-3578). The CSE Customer Service Center (CSC) provides customer service solutions, including a toll-free number, an automated voice response (AVR) system, and customer service representatives (CSRs).
After establishing a case, access your Child Support Enforcement (CSE) case online and through 1-888-LAHELP-U. Child Support information is accessed through the program’s CAFÉ system.
Experienced customer service representatives trained to handle case-specific inquiries not addressed by the AVR can be accessed through the Customer Service Center numbers.
You can also go to local offices to obtain services as well. You’ll find a directory of local offices here.
Read More: Divorce Laws in Louisiana