Interest on Past-Due Child Support in Oklahoma

by Ron Tracy

“Baby, even the losers get lucky sometimes.” – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, “Even the Losers,” 1980

     I’ve heard it said before that the law is slow to change.  However, one thing about to change in dramatic fashion in Oklahoma is the way interest is calculated on past-due child support payments.

     Child support has always held a special status in Oklahoma, as well as under federal law.  For example, any past-due child support payment or installment automatically becomes a judgment as a matter of law.  Okla. Stat. tit. 43 § 137(A).  A child support judgment also shall not become dormant for any purpose.  Okla. Stat. tit. 43 § 137(B); Okla. Stat. tit. 12 § 95(10) (“Court-ordered child support is owed until it is paid in full and it is not subject to a statute of limitations.”).  Unlike regular money judgments, failure to pay child support can, among other things, result in revocation or non-issuance of a driver’s or professional license; incarceration or fine for indirect contempt of court; imposition of statutory lien against real or personal property; and interception of tax refunds.  Roca v. Roca, 2014 OK 55, ¶10, 337 P.3d 97.  

     And, for as long as I can remember, past-due child support accrued interest at the relatively high rate of ten percent (10%) per year, pursuant to Okla. Stat. tit. 43 §114, presumably to encourage timely payment and prevent one from falling into the unenviable status of a “deadbeat” parent.  Well, it appears this particular attribute of past-due child support is about to change. 

      Recently, on May 11, 2016, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin approved House Bill 2757, despite opposition from the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Family Law Division.  Among other provisions, it reduces from 10% to two percent (2%) the interest rate on past-due child support.  That rate is well below the statutory rate allowed on civil money judgments, which currently stands at 5.5% for 2016.  Barring some presently unforeseeable event, the law will become effective on November 1, 2016, and interest on any late child support payments or installments accruing after that date will need to be calculated at the new 2% rate.

     One could argue that parents who are owed child support have been lucky in the past to receive ten percent interest on past-due support, especially in the current low interest rate environment.  But in this case, I think the really lucky ones are all present and future child support obligors, who are now set to get a better interest rate on past-due child support than they can get on the best car loans.  

     Sometimes the law is indeed slow to change, but sometimes it changes quickly and in ways you don’t anticipate.  I think this particular change is going to catch a lot of people and attorneys off guard.  And for some reason, when I think about the new law, I just can’t keep from thinking about the line in that old Tom Petty song….

     For more information on child support, please contact Ron Tracy at 272-9241 or rrtracy@andrewsdavis.com.


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1 comment (Add your own)

1. Jennifer Stice wrote:
This bill also allows people to claim exemptions for both pre-existing and subsequent children who are not a party to the child support case. Putting some of the burden of their irresponsible choice to have more children onto the other party... It is the most retarded thing I have ever read on paper. It is a Deadbeat's dream..

Mon, November 28, 2016 @ 6:22 PM

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