Under Maine law, parents have a responsibility to provide financial support for their minor children, to the extent they are able. When parents do not live together, often one parent will pay money to the other as child support, whether they are married or not married. The process of calculating child support is the same whether done in a Divorce Case or a Parental Rights & Responsibilities Case (unmarried parents).
Calculating the amount of child support
Step 1: Each parent must complete an individual Child Support Affidavit
- To determine the parties’ combined income, each parent fills out a Child Support Affidavit (FM-050). This form asks for information about your income and certain expenses.
- After completing the Affidavit, sign it in front of a Notary Public, attorney, or court clerk, and submit it to the court before the Case Management Conference (a court appearance).
- Give a copy of your completed Affidavit to the other parent.
- The Affidavit is confidential in court files, and may not be accessed by the public.
Step 2: Parents complete the Child Support Worksheet with information from the Child Support Table
Once you and the other parent have exchanged income information in the Child Support Affidavits, the combined income is added into a Child Support Worksheet (FM-040-S). The Worksheet has detailed instructions on how to complete it.
- The Worksheet designates one parent as the “Primary Care Provider” and one parent as the “Non-Primary Care Provider.” The Primary Care Provider is the parent with whom the children live most of the time. Generally, the court will order that the Non-Primary Care Provider pay child support to the Primary Care Provider.
- The Worksheet gives credit to each parent for payment of daycare and medical expenses for the children.
- The Worksheet gives credit to the Non-Primary Care Provider for support paid for other children or to a former spouse, and credit for any other children in his or her home.
- If you and your child’s other parent are providing “substantially equal care,” you must also complete a Supplemental Worksheet (FM-040-SA). “Substantially equal care” means that both parents participate substantially equally in the child’s total care, including the child’s residential, educational, recreational, child care, medical, dental, and mental health needs.
The Child Support Guidelines are applied to the information on the Worksheet (and Supplemental Worksheet, if applicable) and are used to determine the amount of child support. In some circumstances, the court can order a different amount (“deviate” from the guidelines), if the evidence shows there is good reason to do so.
If you or the other parent have not completed the Child Support Worksheet (and Supplemental Worksheet, if applicable) before the Case Management Conference, a magistrate may fill one out at that time.
Be sure to bring relevant financial information to the Case Management Conference, including the cost of daycare and health insurance for the children.
How do I change a child support order?
If you want to change your court-ordered child support, you must file a written request (a “motion”) with the court. See Changing or Enforcing an Order in a Family Matters Case.
If it has been longer than three (3) years since the original child support order was issued, you can ask the court to re-examine the order and do new calculations.
If it has been less than three (3) years since the original child support order was issued, you can ask the court to modify the order if:
- A change in your income, or the other parent’s income, would result in a fifteen percent (15%) or greater change in the child support amount.
How can I enforce a child support order?
Immediate Income Withholding
If the child support order indicates that it is subject to “immediate income withholding,” money for child support can be automatically taken out of the paycheck of the parent who is paying.
The Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Support Enforcement and Recovery (DSER) can help set up immediate withholding. See the section below on Support Enforcement and Recovery Services.
Motion to Enforce or Motion for Contempt
Once you have a child support order in place, you may file a motion in court if a parent is not paying the amount stated in the order. See Changing or Enforcing an Order in a Family Matters Case.
Support Enforcement and Recovery Services
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Support Enforcement and Recovery (DSER) offers child support enforcement services. You do not need to have any other involvement with the Department to apply for DSER services.
DSER may be able to help a parent seeking to enforce a child support order to:
- Collect past due support;
- Impose penalties for non-paying parents, such as putting liens on property, revoking licenses or passports, collecting directly from bank accounts or lottery winnings, or reporting the child support debt to credit bureaus;
- Establish paternity; and
- Collect money from the child's other parent.
If you are a recipient of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits or other qualifying income-based benefits, you will receive child support services from DSER without asking for services.
Parents who have not received cash assistance from TANF
If you have never received public assistance for the children involved in your case (TANF assistance), you may be charged a small fee for assistance.The Federal government requires DSER to collect a $25.00 annual federal fee for each case in which the State has disbursed at least $500.00 of child support for a person who has never received cash assistance from TANF.
More information on DSER, including contact information, may be found at the DSER Guide to Services on the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Family Independence webpage. You may also call the DSER Voice Response System at (800) 371-7179 or (207) 624-7830, or call (207) 624-4100 to speak to a representative.
Pine Tree Legal Assistance- Calculating Your Child Support. Step-by-step instructions.
Pine Tree Legal Assistance- Child Support and Debt Due for Past Support . Provides information for parents about the Department of Health and Human Services process for collecting past due child support.