Lawpedia USA

Rhode Island Child Support: From Paternity to Enforcement A Complete Guide

Child Support and Paternity Establishment in Rhode Island: A Complete Guide

When a child is born out of marriage, one of the parents may be financially responsible for the child’s support. In Rhode Island, the Office of Child Support Services (OCSS) offers assistance to eligible families in establishing paternity and collecting child support.

In this article, we will discuss the services offered by OCSS, the application process and requirements for child support, voluntary and involuntary paternity establishment, and the rights and benefits for fathers and children.

Services Offered by OCSS

DHS The Department of Human Services operates the Office of Child Support Services (OCSS) with a primary focus on helping eligible families with their child support obligations. The OCSS provides the following services:


Establishing Paternity OCSS helps to establish paternity both voluntarily and involuntarily. 2.

Establishing Support Orders OCSS assists with obtaining child support orders from family court. 3.

Enforcement of Support Orders OCSS ensures that family court orders are enforced by collecting child support. 4.

Locate Services OCSS can locate the parent responsible for paying child support, both in and outside of Rhode Island. 5.

Review and Modification of Support Orders OCSS can review and modify family court orders if either party’s circumstances have changed.

Application Process and Requirements

If you’re a parent and need help with your child’s financial support, you can apply for child support assistance from OCSS. Here are the basic requirements and steps to apply:


Application Form You must complete an application form for child support services. You can obtain the form online from the OCSS website or request a form by calling OCSS.

2. Family Violence Questionnaire You must fill out a Family Violence Questionnaire as part of the application process.

The questionnaire is designed to identify safety concerns for all parties involved. 3.

Fee There is no fee to apply for child support services, but you may be required to pay a small fee for certain services provided. 4.

Income Information The custodial parent is required to provide income information to OCSS. This is needed to determine eligibility and calculate the child support amount.

Establishing Paternity

Establishing paternity means determining the legal father of a child. It can be established voluntarily or involuntarily.

Voluntary Establishment

Voluntary establishment of paternity occurs when both parents agree on who the biological father is. Here are the steps to establish paternity voluntarily:


VOP Form Both parents can sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VOP) form at the hospital when the child is born. If the parents are not at the hospital, they can sign the form later.

2. Court Order Either parent can file a court order to establish paternity.

Once the court order is in place and paternity is established, the father has legal rights and responsibilities for the child.

Involuntary Establishment

Involuntary establishment of paternity occurs when one parent disputes paternity. In this case, the court will order genetic testing to determine paternity.

Here are the steps for an involuntary establishment:

1. Court Order Either parent or OCSS can request a court order for genetic testing.

2. DNA Test Genetic testing determines biological paternity using a DNA sample from the child and the possible father.

The results are then used to determine paternity through the court.

Rights and Benefits for the Father and Child

Once paternity is established, both the father and the child can enjoy certain legal rights and benefits. Here are some examples:


Visitation and Custody Rights The father has a right to ask for visitation rights, which may include physical custody of the child. 2.

Inheritance Rights The child has inheritance rights from both the mother and father. 3.

Insurance Benefits The child may be eligible for health insurance coverage from either parent. 4.

Paternity Affidavit Fathers can establish paternity through a paternity affidavit, which legally establishes paternity without going to court.


In Rhode Island, child support enforcement and paternity establishment are essential services for eligible families. Obtaining financial support for children can be daunting, but with the help of the Office of Child Support Services, parents can receive the necessary support, establish paternity, and enjoy the rights and benefits that come with legal paternity.

Calculating Child Support in Rhode Island: A Comprehensive Guide

Child support is the legal obligation of one or both parents to financially support their child. In Rhode Island, calculating child support is based on the Income Shares Model, which takes into account the gross income of both parents, deductions, and the percentage share of both parents’ combined income.

In this article, we’ll discuss how child support is calculated in Rhode Island, the wage withholding and estimation tools available, as well as how to apply for a modification of an existing child support order.

Income Shares Model and Guidelines

The Income Shares Model is the standard method used to calculate child support in Rhode Island. This model determines the total amount of child support that both parents are responsible for based on their combined gross income and the number of children needing support.

The model is based on the premise that the child should receive the same proportion of parental income that would have been available had the family stayed intact. The Rhode Island Department of Human Services provides guidelines for calculating child support.

The guidelines include a chart as well as specific rules regarding deductions. The chart gives a number that represents the amount of child support that will be paid based on the gross income of both parents.

Deductions include things like taxes, health insurance premiums, child care costs, and alimony. Once these deductions are subtracted from gross income, the remaining amount is used to calculate each parent’s percentage share.

The percentage share is then multiplied by the child support amount on the chart to determine each parent’s child support obligation.

Wage Withholding and Estimation Tools

Wage withholding is the most common method of collecting child support in Rhode Island. This is a legal process that requires employers to withhold a portion of the employee’s wages and send it directly to the Office of Child Support Services (OCSS).

This avoids the need for direct payment by the non-custodial parent and ensures timely payment of support. To estimate the amount of child support owed or to verify an existing order, the OCSS provides an online worksheet.

This worksheet includes all the information needed to calculate the amount of support owed, including both parents’ income and deductions, as well as the number of children needing support. The worksheet also automatically calculates the percentage share and child support obligation based on the information provided.

For those who need additional assistance, an attorney can be consulted. Attorneys can also help with wage garnishment and represent clients during court hearings.

Modifying Child Support in Rhode Island

Life circumstances can change and, as a result, child support payments may need to be modified. Rhode Island law allows parents to modify existing child support orders under certain circumstances.

Circumstances for Petitioning for Order Changes

A substantial change in circumstances is required to petition for a modification of an existing order. These changes may include the loss of a job, a change in work hours, a change in income, or a change in custody.

For example, if the non-custodial parent loses their job, they may file a petition to reduce their child support payments. Conversely, if the custodial parent loses their job, they may file a petition to increase child support payments.

Process and Limitations for Modification

When filing for a modification, there is a waiting period of at least three years from the previous order for those who receive child support. The waiting period may be shorter or waived if there is a substantial change in circumstances that affects the child’s welfare.

Parents who are incarcerated may also file for a modification. However, the modification is limited to only the time the parent is incarcerated and must be filed within one year of their release.

To petition for a modification, parents can contact the Office of Child Support Services or file a motion with the court. It’s important to note that changes in child support payments must be at least 10 percent or more to be granted.

The OCSS also offers programs that can assist with modifying child support orders, including the Parent’s Helpline, Job Club, and Referral Services.


Calculating child support payments can be a complex process, but understanding the Income Shares Model and guidelines for Rhode Island can help make it easier. Utilizing wage withholding and estimation tools can help ensure timely payment, while filing for a modification under the appropriate circumstances can guarantee the necessary financial support for your child.

Consequences of Non-Payment and Criminal Non-Support in Rhode Island

The legal obligation of parents to provide financial support for their child should never be disregarded, as failure to provide proper support may lead to consequences. Rhode Island takes child support enforcement seriously and has various enforcement tools available to ensure the timely collection of support payments.

In this article, we’ll discuss enforcement tools, including passport denial, data match, driver’s license suspension, arrest warrant, and interest charges. We’ll also explore the legal implications and consequences of criminal non-support.

Enforcement Tools and Interest Charges

Rhode Island uses several tools to enforce child support payments, including:

1. Passport Denial Delinquent parents may have their U.S. passports denied or revoked if they owe more than $2,500 in child support.

2. Data Match The Rhode Island Department of Human Services matches data from various sources to collect child support payments.

These include unemployment, tax refunds, worker’s compensation, and lottery winnings. 3.

License Suspension Parents who are delinquent in support payments may have their driver’s and professional licenses suspended. 4.

Arrest Warrant Parents who are delinquent may be subject to an arrest warrant. 5.

Interest Charges Interest charges may apply at a rate of 1% per month on overdue payments.

Criminal Non-Support and Consequences

Criminal non-support occurs when a parent intentionally fails to provide child support payments. In Rhode Island, non-support is considered a felony, which can result in up to five years imprisonment, a fine of up to $5,000, community service, and the interception of state and federal tax refunds.

It’s crucial to take responsibility for your child support payments to avoid criminal non-support charges, as the consequences can drastically impact your life.

Ending Child Support in Rhode Island

Child support obligations end when a child reaches the age of majority, which is the 18th birthday in Rhode Island. To terminate child support payments, parents must contact either the Office of Child Support Services (OCSS) or a court of law.

Continued Support for Education or Disability

Rhode Island law also provides for child support for higher education or if the child is mentally or physically disabled and requires continued financial support from their parents. Parents can reach a binding agreement that provides for continued support until the child’s completion of further education or until the disability subsides.

Additionally, Rhode Island doesn’t currently have an emancipation statute, which means that a child who is over 18 but still in school or disabled may continue to receive child support payments. It’s important for the custodial parent to reach out to the OCSS to determine eligibility for continued support.


Child support is a vital aspect of a child’s financial security and well-being. Failure to make proper payments may lead to various consequences, including enforcement tools, interest charges, and even criminal charges.

Knowing the procedures for ending child support payments and continued support for higher education or disability is crucial for parents. Seeking assistance from OCSS if you’re struggling with child support payments or have questions about continued support is the best way to ensure proper payment and safeguard the future of your child.

In conclusion, understanding the process of calculating, modifying, and ending child support in Rhode Island is crucial for both custodial and non-custodial parents. The Income Shares Model and guidelines provide a framework for determining child support payments based on income and deductions.

Wage withholding and estimation tools offer convenient methods for payment and verification. It is essential to be aware of the consequences of non-payment, such as passport denial, license suspension, and criminal charges.

Child support obligations typically end when a child turns 18, but continued support may be required for higher education or disability. Remember, fulfilling child support obligations is not only a legal responsibility but also a fundamental commitment to securing the financial stability and well-being of the child.

Popular Posts