Who Must Pay Child Support in Maine?
Maine state law requires all parents to support their children. If you do not live with your children full-time, a court may order you to pay support to meet this obligation.
The parent who has the children’s primary residence or is owed child support through an Administrative or Court Order is referred to as the Custodial Parent. The parent ordered to pay child support to the other parent is the Non-Custodial Parent.
Child support program services are primarily geared toward helping the custodial parent obtain financial support for the children living in their home.
How is Child Support Determined in Maine?
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) sets weekly child support using Maine’s Child Support Guidelines. The Guidelines use the Maine Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligation, which shows the weekly amount owed based on the combined income of both parents.
Maine follows the “Income Shares Model,” which means that a judge will determine support by calculating how much each parent spent on the child while living together as a family. This number is then divided according to each parent’s income to determine a final support amount.
To complete the calculations, a parent must fill out two forms. The first is the Child Support Affidavit. You need the information from the Affidavit, and from the other parent’s Affidavit. You can get the forms from any district court clerk or DHHS office.
You can see samples of the forms here:
- Sample Child Support Affidavit for Primary Care Provider
- Sample Child Support Affidavit for Non-Primary Care Provider
- Sample Child Support Worksheet
If you don’t have a copy of the other parent’s completed Affidavit, ask DHHS to give it to you. If they won’t, write to the DHHS hearing officer and request that the other parent be served with a subpoena requiring them to bring the information to the hearing. If you don’t have the other parent’s Affidavit available to you, you can use your best estimate to fill out the Affidavit for the other parent.
When both parents provide “substantially equal care” another formula applies. If this is your situation, your child support calculation gets more complicated. You will need form FM-040A Supplemental Child Support Worksheet.
The court also considers the following special circumstances when determining child support:
- If the non-custodial parent is legally obligated to support a child other than the child(ren) for whom the support order is being made
- If the parents’ combined annual income exceeds $400,000. When the parties’ combined annual gross income exceeds $400,000, the child support table is not applicable, except that the basic weekly child support entitlement of a child is presumed to be not less than that outlined in the table for a combined annual gross income of $400,000
- If the annual gross income of the non-custodial parent is less than the federal poverty guideline. If the yearly gross income of the nonprimary care provider is less than the federal poverty guideline, the nonprimary care provider’s weekly parental support obligation may not exceed 10% of the nonprimary care provider’s weekly gross income, regardless of the amount of the parties’ combined annual gross income
- If the parents provide substantially equal care for the child(ren), or
- If each parent is the custodial parent for at least one of the children involved
Parents have the option of reaching their own child support agreement, but a judge will have to approve the agreement to ensure that it serves the child’s best interests.
The parents’ custody arrangement and visitation schedule will impact child support.
Parents can estimate their support obligation by completing the Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligation (Court Form FM 84) available on Maine’s Judicial Branch website. The schedule calculates support based on the parents’ combined gross incomes and the number of children they have together.
The support amount could vary depending on whether a child is under or over 12 years old. The Maine legislature has determined that the costs of raising older children are somewhat higher.
Read More: Divorce Laws in Maine
Factors that May Impact Child Support in Maine
After determining the basic support obligation, a judge may increase or decrease a parent’s support obligation based on several possible factors.
Whether you’re using the standard or the shared parenting formula, you will divide responsibility for these expenses according to your income percentages only.
The court can consider any circumstances that would make strict application of the guidelines unfair or not in a child’s best interests. If you believe a deviation is appropriate in your case, you must provide the court with a written explanation of the reasons.
Several possible deviation situations could impact the final child support amount. Per state statutes, they include:
- The number of children for whom support is being determined is greater than 6
- The interrelation of the total support obligation established under the support guidelines for child support, the division of property, and an award of spousal support made in the same proceeding for which a parental support obligation is being determined;
- The financial resources of each child
- The financial resources and needs of a party, including nonrecurring income not included in the definition of gross income
- The standard of living each child would have enjoyed if the marital relationship had continued.
- The physical and emotional conditions of each child
- The educational needs of each child
- Inflation in relation to the cost of living
- Available income and financial contributions of the domestic associate or current spouse of each party
- The existence of other persons who are financially dependent on either party, including, but not limited to, elderly, disabled or infirm relatives, or adult children pursuing post-secondary education. If the primary care provider is legally responsible for another minor child who resides in the household and if the computation of a theoretical support obligation on behalf of the primary care provider would result in a significantly greater parental support obligation on the part of the nonprimary care provider, that factor may be considered
- The tax consequences if the obligor is awarded any tax benefits. In determining the allocation of tax exemptions for children, the court may consider which party will benefit most from the allocation.
- Income may be imputed to non-income-producing assets with an aggregate fair market value of $10,000 or more, other than an ordinary residence or another asset from which each child derives a substantial benefit.
- The existence of special circumstances regarding a child 12 years of age or older, for the child’s best interest, requires that the primary residential care provider continue providing employment-related daycare.
- An obligor party’s substantial financial obligation regarding the costs of transportation of each child for parent and child contact purposes. The transportation costs must exceed 15% of the yearly support obligation to be considered substantial.
- A finding by the court or hearing officer that the application of the support guidelines would be unjust, inappropriate, or not in the child’s best interest.
Read More: The Psychological Effects of Divorce on Children (and How to Help Them Cope)
Is Health Insurance Considered a Part of Child Support?
Parents are responsible for a child’s healthcare costs if health insurance is available at a “reasonable cost” through a group or employee insurance plan.
DHHS has written standards defining what constitutes “reasonable cost.” It is calculated by determining what it would cost a parent to provide family coverage vs. self-only coverage. If the added cost is below their “reasonable cost” standard, DHHS will order the parent to buy the extra coverage. If a parent is currently exempt, the order will stipulate that the parent must provide health insurance for the children in the future if it becomes available at a reasonable cost.
When a hearing officer decides a parent must provide health care, the parent must give written proof that insurance is in place within 15 days of getting the support order. If a parent does not comply, DHHS can issue a Medical Support Notice that requires an employer to provide coverage for a child and to deduct the premiums from the parent’s earnings.
DHHS can also determine what portion a parent is responsible for related to uncovered medical expenses.
When Does Child Support End in Maine?
The obligation to pay child support ordinarily ends when a child turns 18. However, a court may extend the obligation until a child’s 19th birthday if the child is still in high school or has special needs that require ongoing support, such as mental or physical disabilities.
Support can also end early if a child obtains an order of emancipation, gets married, joins the military, or dies.
Establishing Paternity in Maine
When a mother is married, her husband is automatically considered the legal father of children born during that marriage. However, if a mother and father are not married when the mother becomes pregnant, then paternity can be established by DHHS after the child is born.
Paternity can be established by:
- Both parents complete a voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (“AOP”) (PDF) which can be signed at the hospital or completed and submitted at a later date.
- An order of a District Court declaring a man the legal father of a child, often through genetic testing.
Genetic testing examines a person’s DNA to determine the father of a child. A swab sample is taken from inside the cheek of the father, mother, and child and sent to a lab for testing.
If the mother or the alleged father is deceased, samples may be taken from either the mother or alleged father’s parents or other family members or even from the deceased person’s body. Paternity may also be determined by samples taken just from the child and man being tested.
Results are usually available within 2-6 weeks.
Enforcing Maine Child Support Orders
DSER has many enforcement options to encourage parents to stay current with their child support obligation. That includes, but is not limited to:
- Garnishing wages
- Seizing assets
- Intercepting Federal and State tax refunds
- Placing liens on property
- Seizing or suspending professional, recreational, and automotive licenses
- Seizing passports
When the parent who owes child support is habitually behind or “in arrears,” DSER can ask a court to force the other parent to seek work or send them to jail.
Assistant Attorney Generals represent DHHS’s interests in these matters. If you want representation of your interests, you may hire an attorney.
Modifying Maine Child Support Payments
If your child support order is at least three years old and your financial situation has changed, you can ask for a review of the amount of support. If your order is less than three years old, you can ask for a review of your order due to a “substantial change of circumstances.”
Substantial means that there will be at least a 15% change in the amount you pay.
You can request a review in the following ways:
- Call the Case Review Unit at 1-800-371-7179 (Maine only) or 207-624-7830
- Submit the online form or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Send a request by mail to:
Case Review Unit, DSER
11 SHS, 109 Capitol Street
Augusta, Maine 04333
After you submit a request, DHHS will send you a notice telling you the hearing’s date, time, and place. You’ll need to explain what has changed since the last order to justify a modification at the hearing. Some instances that will justify a modification can include:
- Your income has gone down.
- The other parent’s income has gone up.
- The other parent’s child care costs have gone down.
- Your health insurance costs have increased, so you can’t afford to pay for it anymore.
- Your child stays with you more days of the week now.
DHHS will only change the amount of support from the date it gets your request for a change, so if you’ve undergone a change, submit your request promptly.
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.
Read More: A Guide to Social Security Benefits After Divorce
Which Agency Handles Child Support in Maine?
Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Support Enforcement (DSER) handles child support issues in Maine.
The Division’s central office is located at:
11 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333
Call the Case Initiation Unit at 207 624-4100 or contact DSER through this contact form.
You may also contact DHHS directly by calling or writing:
Department of Health and Human Services
109 Capitol Street
Augusta, ME 04333
Individuals who are required to pay support and who have an existing case may register in the DSER Customer Portal or by contacting their local Child Support Office. Local offices are found throughout the state.
Phone: 286-2533 or 800-322-1919
Phone: 490-5468 or 800-482-0790
Phone: 822-2068 or 800-482-7520
Phone: 795-4390 or 800-482-7517
Phone: 596-4255 or 800-432-7802
Phone: 561-4154 or 800-432-7825
Phone: 664-1484 or 800-432-7823
Phone: 493-4090 or 800-432-7366
Intergovernmental Office (Out of State Payors)
Phone: 624-5475 or 800-452-1926
How Do I Ask for Child Support?
There are two ways to apply for DHHS child support services:
Apply through the DHHS online portal.
Download the application and apply through the mail.
NOTE: If you receive TANF, you will automatically receive child support services.
To apply, you’ll need several documents, including:
- Child’s Birth Certificate. If your child was born in Maine, provide a copy of the birth certificate. If your child was born out of state, provide a certified copy of the birth certificate.
- Complete Court Order. If an order is from Maine, provide a complete Maine Court Order. If an order is from another state/jurisdiction, provide three certified court order copies.
- Statement of Child Support Paid – If your child’s other parent owes a child support debt, please complete the Statement of Child Support Paid attached to your application package.
Read More: How to File for Divorce in Maine