The parents of a child may separate for various reasons or may never even have been married at all. Irrespective of this, both parents (custodial and noncustodial) have a duty and responsibility to ensure that the needs of the child are met. The state of Rhode Island has child support laws to ensure that both parents play an active part in bringing up the child and contributing to the child’s welfare.
Child Support Process
The Office of Child Supports Services (OCSS) is in charge of administering child support in Rhode Island. Applications can be submitted by the parent or guardian of the child; a $20 fee is required for families that are not receiving public financial assistance. For parents receiving public assistance like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), RI Works, RIte Care, etc., the case will automatically be referred for child support at no cost.
The OCSS assists custodial parents with locating the noncustodial parent, establishing parentage, establishing the child support order, and enforcing the order afterward. The application form can be found at https://ocss.ri.gov/sites/g/files/xkgbur511/files/documents/OCSS-Application_2016-v2-updated-KC-Web.pdf. When applying, certain important details have to be provided as they can speed up the progress of establishing the support order. These include the noncustodial parent’s name, complete address, telephone number, employer information, social security number, investment and asset information, identification for the custodial parent, the child’s birth certificate, etc. Most of the information provided about the noncustodial parent will be used when trying to locate them. It is therefore important that the details are as accurate as possible so that it would be easier to locate the noncustodial parent. The case cannot progress until the parent has been served a physical notice of the pending child support case. For more information, visit https://ocss.ri.gov/apply-services.
When the parent has been located and served the notice, the next step is to establish the parentage of the child. There are three main ways that the parentage of a child can be established.
- Marriage: If the mother was married when the child was born, she and her spouse are presumed to be the child’s legal parents by law.
- Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage (VAP): This applies to unmarried parents who both agree that the child is theirs. The VAP is a form that is usually filled at the hospital once the child is born. After it has been filled, the parents’ names can be added to the child’s birth certificate.
- Court Order: For cases where an alleged parent refuses to sign a VAP or believes that the child is not theirs, the state can request genetic testing to verify the child’s parentage. DNA tests are used for this purpose and can indicate that there is a high probability that a man is a child’s father or exclude the man as the parent.
For additional details on parentage, check https://ocss.ri.gov/sites/g/files/xkgbur511/files/documents/Parentage_Brochure_2021-Entire-Booklet-01012021.pdf and https://ocss.ri.gov/custodial-parent-services/establishment-parentage.
After establishing parentage, the OCSS can now begin establishing the child support order, and a medical support order if such is applicable.
How Do You Receive Child Support?
Custodial parents in Rhode Island can receive their child support payments on a debit card or into their bank account. This is made possible by two arrangements.
- Kids Card: This is a debit card that is issued to custodial parents in Rhode Island by default after their case has been established. The Kids Card works like a regular debit card and can be used at ATMs and other points where debit cards are accepted. Parents who were on a different payment arrangement but wish to register for the card can fill the form found at https://ocss.ri.gov/sites/g/files/xkgbur511/files/documents/KidsCard-Enrollment-4-2019.pdf. Additional details about the card can be found at https://ocss.ri.gov/custodial-parent-services/kids-card.
- Direct Deposit: This is an arrangement that allows for the electronic transfer of child support payments into the account of the custodial parent as the money becomes available. Direct Deposit is a safe, fast and reliable way to receive payments. For parents to register, they must have an existing checking or savings account and must fill the Authorization for Direct Deposit which can be gotten from https://ocss.ri.gov/sites/g/files/xkgbur511/files/documents/PROD_DirectDeposit_Eng_Web_8-19.pdf. For further details on Direct Deposit, as well as the full process of registration, visit https://ocss.ri.gov/custodial-parent-services/direct-deposit.
Amount Receivable as Child Support
Child Support in Rhode Island is calculated using the Income Shares model. This model is based on the belief that the child should be entitled to a standard of living similar to what would have been provided if both parents were together. When calculating the child support order, the court considers the gross income of both parents (including from sources such as social security disability benefits, workers compensation, etc.), the cost of childcare, pre-existing child support obligations of the parents, healthcare costs, number of children, etc. When the amount to be paid has been calculated, the court would usually issue an income withholding order to the noncustodial parent’s employer so the payments can be deducted directly from the paycheck of the parent. More details on this are at https://ocss.ri.gov/custodial-parent-services/establishment-child-support-order.
Enforcement of Child Support
The Office of Child Support Services has a duty to ensure that noncustodial parents meet up with their child support obligations. Any child support that is owed must be paid, even if the child has become an adult. There are several enforcement tools at the disposal of the OCSS which are automatically deployed once certain case criteria are met. These include:
- Denial of passport application
- Interception of lottery winnings
- Suspension of driver’s license
- Interception of insurance payouts
- Interception of tax refunds
- Reporting to Credit Bureaus
- Administrative liens
- Criminal prosecution, etc.
Interest is also accrued on all outstanding child support payments, at a rate of 12% per annum. As such, the noncustodial parent would be required to pay the child support that is owed, and any interest that has been accrued. A full list of the enforcement options and tools is available at https://ocss.ri.gov/custodial-parent-services/enforcement.