The Rhode Island Office of Child Support Services (CSS) was created to help parents make sure that their child(ren) have all of the care and support they need to thrive regardless of living situation or the relationship between parents. They offer a complete service for financial, medical, and even emotional support.

Who Needs to Pay Child Support?

The mother and the father are responsible for the needs of their child such as:  food, shelter, clothing, safety, finances, and health care.  In case of divorce or separation, it can be necessary for a court to decide who has custody of the child and who pays child support.  The two primary types of custody are sole custody and joint custody.

  • Sole custody – One parent custody of the child. The child lives with the parent. The parent usually have full control of the child of the child’s upbringing, including health decision, education, and extracurricular activities.
  • Joint custody – Both parents have the child in homes an equal amount of time.  They may also have equal rights to make decision for the child. 

If one parent has sole custody, the other parent pays the child support. When both parents have joint custody, one of the parents may still have to pay child support if they have a higher income

How Do You Petition for Child Support?

All child support orders are put in place by a court. Two ways to begin the child support process are:

  • Filing a case directly with the Rhode Island Family Court; or
  • Completing an application for the Rhode Island Child Support Services to file your case with the court for you.

When you file your case, the court asks both parents to submit information necessary to establish the amount of child support. The judge applies the information to the state child support guidelines, which include:

  • The financial needs of the child;
  • The employment and income of both parents;
  • The current lifestyle of the child;
  • Number of children; and
  • The welfare and educational needs of the child.

The court must also establish who is the father of the child.  The law presumes that the husband is the father of child born to married parents.  If there is a question of who is the father, the court can request a paternity test. A man has up until 4 years after a child turns 18 to challenge or acknowledge he is the father. Once the child support order is set by the judge, the paying parent can pay directly or have the money taken out of his paycheck.

What If You Don't Pay Child Support?

Paying parents must pay their child support on the date and in way the judge says. The moment that you miss a payment, the court or CSS automatically acts to get the unpaid child support. The judge may set consequences in the court order for a paying parent who fails to pay on time.  The CSS also has options to get the overdue payments, such as:

  • Denying you from getting or renewing your passport
  • Suspending you license
  • Taking money out of your tax refund
  • Taking money out of your paycheck
  • Paying fines; or
  • Going to jail.

What Recourse can the Other Parent Have if You Don't Pay for Support?

If the paying parent does not pay child support, he is in violation of a court order.  The custodial parent or owed parent can file a case with the state family court for the other parent’s failure to pay. The CSS may file on your behalf if your child support order is in their system. CSS does not provide legal representation, but it has the power to use methods get unpaid payments.

How Can You Stop Paying Child Support?

Certain circumstances may cause a judge to decide to stop child support.  A judge must put in a court order that he is ending your obligation to pay child support. It is illegal to stop paying without a court order.  So if you try to stop child support by yourself, then you may face serious penalties and fines. Reasons that child support may end are:

  • Your child reaches age 18 or graduates from high school;
  • Your child dies;
  • You give up your parental rights;
  • You lose your job; or
  • You are in jail.

Where Can You Find the Right Lawyer?

Handling a child support case on your own can be stressful and a lot of work. If you need help, then contact a Rhode Island family law lawyer today to handle your child support concerns.