Frequently Asked Questions
The Family Support Act of 1988 required all states to adopt guidelines to be used for establishing and modifying child support awards. The purpose of the guidelines is to ensure that support awards are calculated fairly and equitably throughout the state. In 1985, Vermont adopted the "Income Shares Model" of guidelines. This model presumes that both parents contribute to the financial support of the child, and both parents' incomes are used in determining the child support amount. The guidelines reflect Vermont's public policy that parents have the responsibility to provide child support and that child support orders should reflect the true costs of raising children and is to be based on the concept that children should receive the same proportion of parental income as they would if their parents lived together in the same household.
The guidelines produce different child support amounts based on the custody arrangements. Sole, split or shared custody arrangements all have different guideline calculation requirements and amounts. A Family Court judge prior to the establishment of a child support order must determine custody arrangements.
Wage withholding is a court ordered deduction from the support payer's paycheck. The deduction is for the full amount of child support and/or back payments. It typically takes several weeks after the child support order is issued for wage withholding to begin.
Wage withholding is designed to make it more convenient to pay child support and to create an accurate record of child support payments made and received, thereby eliminating any dispute over how much child support has been paid.
The employer will send a check for the full amount of child support to the Office of Child Support (OCS) Registry, unless the amount exceeds limitations set by the Consumer Credit Protection Act (which is a federal law that protects employees from having too much money withheld from their paychecks).
Upon receipt of the support payment, OCS applies the funds to the non-custodial parent's account and, within 2 to 3 business days, issues the payment to the custodial parent or other entitled party. Payment is in the form of either a State of Vermont check or direct-deposit to the recipient's bank account.
Every January non-custodial parents receive a statement noting the dates and amounts of their child support payments recorded by the OCS Registry the preceding quarter (3 month period). It is important for non-custodial parents to review the statements and make sure all wage withholdings were credited appropriately.
Until wage withholding starts, the non-custodial parent should send the required support payment, by check or money order, to the OCS Registry (Office of Child Support, 103 South Main St., Waterbury, VT 05671-1901).
Child support should not be paid directly to the custodial parent because OCS will have no record of the payment in the event of a dispute or the need to begin enforcement activities. In addition:
If you are signed up with the Office of Child Support (OCS) for services, OCS may be able to help you enforce your child support order and collect the payments you are owed. Write to us at the Office of Child Support, 103 South Main Street, Waterbury, VT 05671-1901, or call your regional OCS caseworker.
If the support payer changes jobs the new employer is required by law to report all their newly hired employees to the state within 20 days. This information is then electronically matched with child support cases within Vermont and then nationally and the new employer is notified about wage withholding.
If you know where the support payer is working, tell us and we'll contact the employer to verify employment and begin wage withholding.
If the non-custodial parent becomes unemployed, child support payment must continue. The amount of support remains the same unless the court grants a modified (changed) support order. OCS cannot reduce the obligation without a new court order.
If the support payer is collecting unemployment compensation, we can deduct the support payments from the unemployment check, just as if it were a paycheck, and then it is sent to the OCS Registry.
If the support payer is not working and has no income and OCS services have been requested, OCS can determine whether legal action may be appropriate. A court action may be filed if the non-custodial parent has voluntarily quit work in order to avoid paying child support.
If you receive a child support payment directly to you from the non-custodial parent, you must notify the Office of Child Support (OCS) in writing in order for OCS to record the payment/s. Write to: Registry, Office of Child Support, 103 South Main Street, Waterbury, VT 05671-1901.
If the debt has accrued because the non-custodial parent cannot afford to pay the amount of support originally ordered, he or she should petition the Family Court to modify the order and explain the situation at the first court hearing. If the Magistrate or Judge agrees then the court modifies or changes the support order.
Either parent may request a change or "modification" of the child support order by filing the modification petition in Family Court. The following conditions must be met for an order to be changed:
1. There has been a "real, substantial and unanticipated change in circumstances", such as a significant income change, disability, job layoff, change in the amount of time spent with the children, cost of visitation or health insurance, change in custody, etc.; or
2. There is a need to suspend an order for wage withholding; or
3. There has been a change that would result in a child support payment at least 10% higher or lower than currently ordered, on the basis of the Vermont child support guidelines.
The 10% change required in order to ask the court for a modification refers to the change in the support payment, not a 10% change in income. A change of 10% in either parent's income may or may not lead to a 10% change in the support payment. The only way to determine this is to compute child support using the new incomes. OCS or Family Court can help you with this calculation.
Child support payments are credited to the payer's account, and issued by check or electronic funds transfer to the obligee within 2 days after the child support is received. Obligees receiving public assistance from the Economic Services Division get their support within two months after OCS receives it. The delay in sending support to obligees on temporary public assistance is required by law.
The Office of Child Support provides several ways for parents to confirm that the OCS Registry has properly recorded their child support payments:
If you discover an error, contact a Customer Service Representative at OCS Help Line or write your OCS office and explain the error. OCS will review the situation and correct any errors as soon as possible.
If the employer has been withholding the wrong amount of child support, OCS will notify the employer and ask that the amount be corrected.
If you discover you have overpaid child support to the Registry, OCS staff will review your account and provide instructions.
If you disagree with any decision or action taken by OCS concerning your child support order, you can resolve this by calling your caseworker or their supervisor. If you are still not satisfied, you can ask your OCS caseworker for an "administrative review." Administrative reviews cover two areas: collection remedies or debt amounts, and general grievances (all matters except those involving collection remedies or debt amounts).
If you do not agree with the decision resulting from the administrative review process, you can appeal that decision as well. Grievances involving debt amounts or collection remedies are appealed through Family Court; other grievances are appealed through the Human Services Board of the Agency of Human Services.
The Family Court orders child support payments to be wage withheld from the obligor whenever possible. To ease the burden this places on employers, Vermont law requires that employers send payments to the Office of Child Support and that OCS maintain a record of payments received. OCS will collect all payments and disburse them to the obligee and calculate any arrears that accrue. OCS charges a $5 monthly fee for processing the payments. This $5 fee can be avoided by applying for OCS services. Services include, but are not limited to, assistance with modifications and enforcement. Click here for an application.