How to Calculate Child Support Payments in Rhode Island

Learn how to calculate child support in Rhode Island, when the amount of support may be different than what’s calculated under the state’s guidelines, and how to apply for, collect, and modify child support.

By , J.D. · University of Missouri School of Law

How to Use the Rhode Island Child Support Worksheet

Unlike many other states, Rhode Island does not provide an official, online calculator for child support. But the state does provide a Child Support Guidelines Worksheet (in a fillable PDF) that you can use to calculate your basic child support obligation, based on the current Rhode Island child support guidelines.

You'll need to have some basic information on hand before filling in the worksheet, including both parents' income and debts and certain expenses for the child (including health insurance coverage and work-related child care). If you're still negotiating issues like who will pay for health insurance or child care expenses for the children, you might try multiple calculations under different scenarios.

Are Online Rhode Island Child Support Calculators Accurate?

Watch out for websites with so-called child support calculators for Rhode Island. Unfortunately, there's no guarantee that these calculators are accurate and up-to-date. Rhode Island updates its child support guidelines regularly, but you usually can't tell whether any of these other websites have kept up with the latest changes.

It's best to stick with the official state resources (in the link above) to calculate the amount of child support you may pay or receive. Be aware, however, that this will be an estimate. As explained below, the judge may order a different amount in your case.

When Child Support May Be Different Than the Guideline Calculation

Rhode Island presumes that the amount calculated under the guidelines is appropriate, but you may argue that a different amount would be better in your situation. Whether you and the child's other parent have agreed on a support amount that departs from the guideline or a judge decides for you, the judge will have to find that using the amount calculated under the guidelines would be inequitable to the child or either parent. (R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 15-9-1(a), 15-5-16.2(a) (2024).)

Learn more about how child support works in Rhode Island, including factors judges must consider when deviating from the guidelines and what gets counted as income when calculating support.

How to Apply for Child Support in Rhode Island

Typically, you'll apply for child support as part of the process of filing for divorce in Rhode Island. You'll include your completed child support worksheet along with the other divorce papers.

If you aren't married to your child's other parent, you may get help with requesting support by applying for child support services from the Office of Child Support Services (OCSS) in the Rhode Island Department of Human Services. If needed, the OCSS may also help with establishing the child's legal paternity or parentage and locating absent parents.

How to Collect Child Support in Rhode Island

The Rhode Island State Disbursement Unit (SDU) will collect and process all court-ordered child support payments.

If you're having trouble collecting support payments, the Rhode Island OCSS can also help enforce court-ordered child support. Depending on how much the other parent owes, the agency has several ways of enforcing child support, including withholding support from paychecks, reporting the debt to credit bureaus, intercepting income tax refunds, seizing money from bank accounts, placing liens on property (so the delinquent parent can't sell it or borrow money before paying off the debt), and suspending the parent's driver's or other licenses. (218 R.I. Code R. §§ 30-00-1.19, 30-00-1.20 (2024).)

How to Change the Amount of Child Support

Either parent may request a modification in the amount of child support in Rhode Island. Generally, you'll need to demonstrate that there has been a change in circumstances, such as a change in the child custody order. If it has been longer than 36 months since the child support order was entered or last reviewed, you do not need to have a change in circumstances. (218 R.I. Code R. 30-00-1.22.2 (2024).)

You may request a review of your current child support order from the Rhode Island OCSS. You also have the option of filing a request directly with the court. But without OCSS assistance, you should consider speaking with a family lawyer.

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