Child Support is the financial legal obligation children have over their parents in case of a divorce or separation. It is generally paid monthly to the custodial parent by the non- custodial parent. In other words, the parent that has income typically sends the money to the non-earning parent.
How Does a Court Determine the Eligibility of Child Support?
One of the main concerns is how a court determines if one parent is entitled to receive child support from the other parent. Besides determining eligibility the question of paternity may arise too. There are some basic rights that courts examine when making these decisions. First, there must be a determination if the parent is custodial versus non- custodial.
Generally, the custodial parent or the one who has primary physical custody of the child. The custodial parent is the one who does the day to day activities for the child and resides with that parent usually. The courts assign custody and visitation after the divorce if the parents are in dispute. However, in joint custody cases the child support eligibility may become more complicated because both parties could be considered custodial parents. But one parent may still be required to pay child support if there is an unequal amount of disparity between the parents income.
What are the Other Determining Child Support Criteria?
It does not automatically imply that if you are a custodial parent you will receive child support. A number of other legal and practical issues must be considered for this issue and these include:
- Do you know the whereabouts/location of the other parent, If you do not know this basic information, you may be entitled to free assistance with locating the other parent, through your state’s child support services agency;
- Has there been an established legal fatherhood (paternity) and;
- Visit the family court, or to the local branch of your state’s child support services agency, to obtain a child support order
In the majority of the states, once a child support order is issued, the state’s child support services enforcement agency can provide the parent location, support collection, or support enforcement services. Nonpayment of child support can result in detrimental consequences, including paycheck garnishment and loss of professional licenses.
What if There Needs to Be a Modification in the Child Support Order?
Both parents may agree to modify the child’s support terms, but the proposed modification must be approved by a judge to be legally enforceable. If you and your former partner cannot agree on a change, you’ll have to file a motion (written request) with the court to have a judge decide for you.
Typically, the court will not modify an existing order unless the parent can show that there has been a significant change of circumstances from when the current order was originally issued. This way it prevents the court from becoming overburdened with frequent and repetitive modification requests. Some examples of the types of changes that frequently support modification orders include:
- A child’s medical emergency – the paying parent’s temporary inability to pay (for instance, because of illness or an additional financial burden such as a medical emergency or job loss);
- The recipient parent’s temporary economic or medical hardship;
- Either parent’s receipt of additional income from remarriage;
- Either parent’s employment change;
- Either parent’s disability and;
- A change in the child’s needs.
What is the Duration of the Child Support Payments?
Typically, the financial support for the child ends when they reach the age of maturity. In the majority of the states, this happens to be when they turn 18 and complete high school education. In many cases, emancipation occurs when the child reaches the age of majority, which is 18 in most states. In rare occasions the court may grant emancipation to the minor for financial self- sufficiency, marriage or joining the military. But some states require you to financially support the child well through high school.
However, if the court terminates your parental rights you are no longer obligated to do it. Either if there is neglect or abuse, the responsibility of paying for the child will end. Keep in mind that if you have incurred child support payments, then you will need to pay off the debt unless they are waived by the court. But those remaining payments of child support are considered your responsibility.
States may mandate that you need to formally request the court to issue an order ending your child support obligations. It is not advised to assume that you do not need to pay or are reassured to pay, it can only lead to a rack of arrearages. Timely resolution of the issue regarding the child support payments will be useful for the future. Therefore, in general it is important to make timely payments for child support because failure to do so will result in severe legal consequences.
What Does Child Support Cover in General?
In most states, child support is only intended to cover some of the basic needs of raising a child, including food, housing, and clothing. However, some states allow for child support to expand and include to a broad range of expenses such as the following below:
- Basic necessities;
- Medical care;
- Educational fees;
- Extracurricular activities; and
- College expenses.
In addition to this, there can be other unexpected costs associated with raising a child. Depending on the state you reside in it is crucial to research the local family laws and guidelines regarding what could apply towards a child support payment. The court will adhere to the child’s best interest standard in determining how much to award them for child support. Furthermore, it will also depend on the parent’s income and how that plays out in the nds calculation of child support payment.
What Are the Additional Considerations for Child Support?
All states have established child support guidelines to determine the decision making process for the amount of child support that a parent may be required to pay. Courts consider a variety of factors that may include the following:
- A parent’s income and ability to pay;
- The financial needs of the child and;
- The necessary amount of support needed to maintain a child’s existing standard of living ideally.
Courts typically do not require custodial parents to prove that the child support payments they receive go toward specific activities, but there is an exception in cases if the child’s basic needs are not being met. The basic assumption is that parents with physical custody of a child are paying for the necessary expenses to raise the child and, therefore, courts tend to not monitor the spending habits of a custodial parent.
In addition, where a child’s shift, or where there is a significant change in a parent’s circumstances, such as the loss of employment, it may become necessary for a parent to file for a modification of existing child support. This process is made easier to ensure that the parent acts quickly to modify support after a change in circumstances.
When Do I Need to Hire a Child Support Attorney?
If you have recently been separated or divorced, you may still be in the process of obtaining child custody for your child or children. Therefore, reaching out to a local child support attorney about understanding the factors of child support eligibility will be important especially if you are not making enough income to financially support your child. You will need to individually consider each factor and determine what the correct legal option is for you.