Friday, March 7, 2008

Child Support in the CNMI



Parents who don’t receive child support struggle to meet their children’s basic needs. Parents may not always be able to pay the full amount of their child support. The economic downturn in the CNMI in the past few years has magnified these issues. Knowing your legal rights and obligations in these situations helps ensure that children receive the support to which they are entitled.

When does a parent legally owe child support?

When does a court get involved with child support?

Do I have to pay child support even if none has been ordered by a court?

How long must parents support their children?

Is there a formula I can use to calculate my child support payments?

The parent who owes child support is refusing to pay. What can I do?

Does the CNMI government help with enforcing child support orders?

I lost my job and can’t keep up with my payments. Can I ask the court to cancel the support order?




When does a parent legally owe child support?

Parents are always legally obligated to provide for their children, even if the parents are unmarried. When parents separate, the parent who is not living with the child will legally owe a regular payment to support the child. That parent also must make sure that the child has health insurance.     back to top


When does a court get involved with child support?

Child support will always be determined by a court in a divorce action involving minor children. For unmarried parents, one of the parents will need to start a court action on custody and support.     back to top


Do I have to pay child support even if none has been ordered by a court?

Yes. The legal duty to pay support does not depend on a court order. If parents have separated a long time before there is a divorce decree or custody court order, a court may decide how much child support was owed in the past.     back to top


How long must parents support their children?

Parents must provide support until the child is no longer a minor, which means when the child reaches 18 years of age. Some exceptions include the following:

• If the child is unmarried, a full-time high school student, and is still living with and dependent on one of the parents. In that case, support may finish when the child reaches 21 years of age.

• When a birth parent’s rights and responsibilities are terminated by a court (such as when a child is adopted).

• If a court has declared the child to be emancipated, child support may end before the child turns 18. Emancipation can occur when a minor is responsible enough to be free from parental control and is already self-supporting.
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Is there a formula I can use to calculate my child support payments?

No. All the U.S. states have numerical guidelines for calculating child support. Efforts to establish similar guidelines began here in the early 1990s under former Presiding Judge Edward Manibusan. Throughout the years, under succeeding judges, committees were set up, research was conducted, and at least two sets of regulations were drafted. However, no numerical guidelines have yet to be finalized and made enforceable in the CNMI. Thus, the courts are left with figuring out child support amounts based on various circumstances. Some of these factors include the following:

• The needs of the child — including health insurance, educational needs, day care and special needs;

• The needs of the custodial parent; and

• The paying parent’s ability to pay.
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The parent who owes child support is refusing to pay. What can I do?

A parent who is working but not paying child support can have his or her paychecks garnished. A garnishment is where an employer is legally required to withhold some of the money from a person’s paycheck. The employer would then send the withheld funds to the parent who should be receiving the child support. You will need to request a garnishment order from the court. There are several rules regarding garnishment for child support, so you should have an attorney assist you.

Another way to enforce a child support order is by requesting that the court hold the parent who is refusing to pay in contempt of court. To be in contempt of court generally means that a person is willfully disobeying a court order. If the court finds the parent in contempt, the court may impose a jail term to force the parent to comply with the order. A court uses this power as a last resort. Practically speaking, the court would rather keep the parent out of jail where there is a chance of earning the money to continue the support payments.
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Does the CNMI government help with enforcing child support orders?

Public Law 14-34 was enacted in October 2004 to establish a comprehensive system for the enforcement of child support. The act creates a government agency to administer its provisions. However, as of now, there is no operational agency, and no regulations have been issued. Thus, the parent is primarily responsible for making sure the other parent complies with the child support obligation by taking matters to court.

There is one instance where the CNMI government assists in making sure a parent pays child support. If one of the parents lives anywhere else in the US (or its territories), the Marshall Islands, Palau, or the Federated States of Micronesia, the CNMI Office of the Attorney General can get involved. The CNMI, along with the rest of the US, enacted its own version of the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act, which provides a procedure for the enforcement of child support obligations between persons residing in separate states. Under that law, the Attorney General has various duties to assist in ensuring that off-island parents who owe child support are located and make their payments. The Attorney General can also get involved to enforce support obligations when the parent who owes is here and the other parent is off-island.
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I lost my job and can’t keep up with my payments. Can I ask the court to cancel the support order?

You will still have a child support obligation, even if you have no income. You and the other parent may agree to modify the child support terms, but this still needs to be approved by a judge to be legally enforceable.

If you and the other parent cannot agree on the change in support, you will need to request the court to hold a hearing to make the decision for the both of you. As a general rule, the court will not order a decrease or increase in child support payments unless there has been a significant change in circumstances. Some examples of a significant change include job loss or a large salary increase.
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All images derived from “Kids on the Beach” by moriza , “Latte Stones of Guam" by Drew Vigal , “Dave & the kids playing Carabu Cart” by leevin3 ” and “Saipan Sunset” by Lefty007 and are published under an Attribution NonCommercial Creative Commons license .

1 comment:

russell said...

I just want to know the rights of my children about child tax,because for more than 2 years now my 2 children,that was born from CNMI,did not get any support from their child tax, I'm just wondering if it's possible that they can still get this support while they are living in other country specifically in the Philippines. because my husband and I were practically separated in a way,and I believed that he's getting this "child tax"and not using for our children sake.I hope that you can give me some information if I can get this child tax for my 2 kids to support their needs.