Oklahoma law provides that, except in rare occasions, any child shall be entitled to support by the parents until the child reaches eighteen (18) years of age. If a child is regularly enrolled in and attending high school, or an alternative high school education program as a full-time student, the child shall be entitled to support by the parents until the child graduates from high school or until the age of twenty (20) years, whichever occurs first. Full-time attendance shall include regularly scheduled breaks from the school year.
As in all states, Oklahoma has created its own child support guidelines, which represent the presumed child support award to be entered in any case. The child support guidelines assumes that all families with children incur certain expenses relating to housing, food, transportation, basic public education expenses, clothing, and entertainment, and that those expenses vary based on the income of the parents and the number of overnights the children stay with each parent. However, when the combined income of each parent exceeds $15,000.00 a month, the child support amount may exceed the guideline amount.
Oklahoma law provides that if the combined gross monthly income of both parents exceeds Fifteen Thousand Dollars ($15,000.00), the child support shall be that amount computed for a monthly income of Fifteen Thousand Dollars ($15,000.00) and an additional amount determined by the court. 43 Okl. St. § 119 (B).
Oklahoma courts have consistently held that the amount of child support to be paid by the obligor parent must be just, equitable, reasonable, and appropriate under the circumstances. The Oklahoma court case of Smith v. Smith, 2003 OK CIV APP 28, determined that the children’s need is the basis of an upward deviation of child support, and that there must be evidence of an increased need on the part of the children. Therefore, if there is no need for additional support beyond the child support guideline amount, there should be no upward deviation in support. To do so would simply be a redistribution of income from one parent to the other without justification.
The Smith case maintains that as the parents’ combined gross income increases, the proportion of that income that is designated for child support decreases. This is because a child’s needs, both essential and lifestyle-related, do not inherently increase regardless of the income. The Court referred to the “three pony rule,” which maintains that no child needs three ponies, no matter if the parents can easily afford to provide them. The Smith court references its resistance to a court’s redistribution of the wealthy parent’s estate, rather than simply providing support for the child based on the child’s reasonable needs.
Under current law in Oklahoma, the judge will determine the reasonable expenses of the children as presented by the requesting parent. Once the reasonable child expenses are settled upon by the Court, the obligated parent’s percentage of combined income will be applied to the reasonable expenses to determine the child support amount. For example if Parent A earns $20,000.00 per month, and Parent B earns $5,000.00 per month, Parent A’s percentage of income is 80%. ($20,000/$25,000 = .8) If the children’s reasonable expenses are $3,500.00 per month, Parent A’s child support obligation would be $2,800.00 ($3,500 x .8 = $2,800).
Significant litigation occurs between parents as to the issue of what are reasonable expenses of the children, and the issue is so case specific that it is difficult to address within a blog post such as this. However, any expenses must be just, equitable, reasonable, and appropriate under the circumstances. It is best to work closely with a qualified attorney to prepare for the issue of what is a reasonable expense under the circumstances of the case.
The family law attorneys of The Smith Firm are versed in this topic and prepared to assist you in navigating child support issues relating to high-net-worth cases. If you would like to discuss your specific matter, contact us today.