Many parents have questions about child support. Child support is an important aspect of a child’s upbringing, so it’s essential that you understand how child support laws work. Some commonly asked child support questions are:
1) What Is Child Support Supposed to Cover?
Child support is intended to cover the child’s basic living necessities and expenses, including: food, shelter, clothing, academic expenses, necessary medical costs, and reasonable recreation expenses. Luxury items are usually not covered by child support, nor are the needs of the custodial parent. Child support arrangements are legally enforceable if they have been submitted to the court for approval and converted into an official order, or if the parents have a valid child support contract in place.
2) How Is the Amount of Child Support Calculated?
Child support amount calculations are determined based on various factors that relate to the child and the parents. For instance, a court will usually consider the child’s age, physical characteristics, development, and medical needs when setting the support amounts. They will also consider the income level, earning capacity, education, and financial background of each parent. They will also consider other factors such as whether the custodial parent has remarried and is receiving financial support from their new spouse.
3) How Is Child Support Collected?
The non-paying parent can usually collect child support in three ways: Direct deposits, electronic payment card (EPC; similar to a debit card); or through a bank check. In some cases, the paying parent may have their wages garnished, which means that their employer deduces an amount from each salary payment and sends it to a child welfare agency, which then transfers the support to the custodial parent.
4) Can the Amount of Child Support Be Modified?
Yes- the parents need to file for a child support modification with the court. This will allow them to present information regarding the requested adjustments or modifications. Generally speaking, there needs to be a justifiable reason as to why the monthly support amount should be changed (it’s usually a request for a higher amount). For instance, it may be necessary to show that the child is incurring additional expenses at school and needs more money for academic reasons.
5) If a Parent Loses Their Job or Gets a New Job, Is Child Support Automatically Changed?
No. Courts are not responsible for monitoring changes in the lives of the parents or the child, even major ones. If either parent (or the child) experiences any new circumstances that might require an adjustment of child support, they need to file a request with the court. The court will review the new circumstances and will determine whether a modification to the existing order is necessary.
6) Does Child Support End Automatically When the Child Turns 18?
Not necessarily. Child support may continue if it is shown that the child is still primarily dependent on the paying parent for financial support. Note that this doesn’t have to be an exclusive dependency. On the other hand, if a judge determines that the child is now beyond the parent’s “sphere of influence,” they may conclude that the child is emancipated (released from child support). In other words, emancipation is more dependent on self sufficiency rather than age.
7) What Is “Past Due Support”?
Past due support refers to child support payments that have been missed or skipped. The court will usually keep track of any amounts that are missing or owed. Over time, these may accumulate, but the paying parent will still be legally obligated to pay them. As such, some non-custodial parents may accumulate large amounts in “past due support” if they continually miss payments. This can cause them to face consequences, such as having their wages garnished from work.
8) What If the Other Parent Refuses to Pay Child Support?
This type of conduct should be reported immediately to the court. Failure to pay child support can result in various legal consequences, including a contempt order, or even criminal charges in serious cases. The paying parent will still owe the past due amounts, so long as there is a valid support order on file with the court. In very serious cases, the non-paying parent’s property and assets may be affected by outstanding child support debt, and their credit will likely be affected.
The custodial parent can often request services from child support collection agencies, whose job is to identify non-paying parents and obtain the child support payments from them.
9) The Other Parent is Using Child Support for Personal Purchases - What Should I Do?
Again, this type of conduct should be reported immediately to the judge or to court officials. As mentioned, child support is intended solely for the benefit of the child. Violations of child support laws can result in legal consequences, such as a loss of custodial rights or visitation rights (this of course will depend on the overall circumstances). In some cases, the court may order a recalculation of the child support order to determine the true extent of the actual needs of the child.
10) Is It Necessary to Hire a Lawyer for Child Support Issues?
Generally speaking, child support issues are very complicated and require much interaction between the parents and the court. It’s in your best interests to hire a child support lawyer if you need assistance with child support issues. You can direct your child support questions to your attorney, who can then respond with the information you need. Also, your attorney can represent you in court during the hearings and formal court meetings.