How Does Louisiana's Child Support System Work?
By Heather Frances J.D.
When parents divorce, children may suffer financially from the decreased household income level. Child support orders are given to help ensure that both parents are supporting the children financially, even when only one parent has custody of the children. In Louisiana, as in other states, child support guidelines help determine the amount to be paid, and the state can help a custodial parent obtain payments.
Child Support Guidelines
Louisiana has established child support award guidelines based on the incomes of both parents. These guidelines are based on the estimated costs of raising a child at various income levels, taking into account the number of children in the household. The non-custodial parent is required to pay an amount based on his percentage of the combined incomes and the specific needs and expenses of the child. Child support orders can include each parent’s portion of medical insurance, medical costs not covered by insurance, private school tuition and extracurricular activities.
Deviating from Guidelines
In cases of joint custody, a Louisiana court considers the amount of time the child spends with each parent as a basis for adjustments made to the amount of child support paid. Louisiana allows the court to deviate from the guidelines if the application of the guidelines to a particular case would not be in the best interests of the child or would be inequitable to the parents.
Modifying Louisiana Child Support Orders
If a parent can prove that a material change in his circumstances occurred after a child support order was issued, the parent can ask the court to modify the existing child support order. For example, if the noncustodial parent becomes severely disabled and cannot work, the court could modify the child support order based on his new, lower income.
Department of Children and Family Services
Louisiana’s Department of Children and Family Services offers child support assistance services, including collection and distribution of child support payments. When a non-custodial parent’s child support payments are withheld from his paycheck as specified in the child support order, DCFS collects those payments and sends them to the custodial parent. DCFS can help a custodial parent find the non-custodial parent and establish paternity, if necessary. DCFS also offers assistance in obtaining and enforcing a child support order.
Non-custodial parents who do not pay their required child support may face significant penalties. In Louisiana, enforcement efforts may include income assignment, seizure of federal or state tax refunds or lottery winnings, and suspension of professional licenses, hunting and fishing licenses, driver’s licenses, motor vehicle registrations and passports. A parent who is behind on child support payments can also be punished for contempt of court for not following a court order.
Heather Frances has been writing professionally since 2005. Her work has been published in law reviews, local newspapers and online. Frances holds a Bachelor of Arts in social studies education from the University of Wyoming and a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School.