Obtaining child support for your child is crucial for them to have a suitable and comfortable livelihood. It can be a long and stressful process.Therefore, preparing ahead of time can relieve some of that stress and provide a strategy for the lawyer to obtain a child support order that is in the “best interests of the child.” 

There are several factors to consider and prepare for when meeting you with your child support lawyer and they vary depending upon the state you live in. 

Where are the Parents Located?

If you are the parent requesting child support, then you first need to determine the location or the physical address of the other parent who needs to pay for it. There are state child support service agencies that can help you locate the other parent. 

Depending on the state you live in, the necessary forms and steps for a child support petition will be different. Generally, the case should be filed in the state where the parent who is paying the child resides.   

Which Parent Has Physical Custody of the Child?

The parent who the child lives with is considered to have physical custody of the child. The custodial parent, the one who has custody, can request child support from the non-custodial parent who has visitation rights and does not live with the child. 

If the child lives with a non-parent (like an aunt/uncle or grandparents), then they can also request to receive child support from one or both of the child’s parents. Often times grandparents can be primary caretakers of their grandchildren.

How Much Do You and the Other Parent Earn?

The court will look into both parents’ financial capabilities, like how much the earn and how much they owe. Therefore, it is important to have a list of assets, debt and monthly expenses.

A copy of your statement of income and property will also be useful, like a bank statement. Documents such as recent W-2 tax forms can be used as proof of earnings and financial ability. 

Courts use certain factors to calculate the child support payments: 

  • Income of both parents must be exchanged to determine what the proportionate payments would be; 
  • Employment status of the parents;
  • Other dependent children; 
  • Overnight visits require more financial credit than once a week dinner non-overnight stays;
  • Healthcare costs; and
  • Child care expenses.

Some courts look to the “income shares” as a guideline to set the monthly child support payment. This factors in both of the parents gross income and creates a payment that is proportional to each of the parent’s income. However, all states have their specific factors they consider for calculating child support. 

Has Paternity Been Established?

If the parents are not married, then you need to determine if paternity has been established because only a legal parent can be financially obligated to pay child support. Keep in mind that legal parent is not always the same as biological parent, which is why it’s very important to determine the true paternity of the child. 

Paternity can be established in one of two ways. Both parents can consent to sign an  Acknowledgment of Paternity or the court can sign and Order of Filiation after a paternity case. 

Is There an Existing Child Support Order?

If there is an existing child support order, then it will be taken into account when determining the new child support petition. Therefore, the lawyer needs the proper documentation that gives information for the existing child support order. 

A parent can request to modify an existing child support order. There are several reasons that courts consider in modifying the order and these may vary depending on the states:

  • A change in the parent’s income paying child support;
  • A change in the dependent children;
  • Parent or the care-giver starts receiving public assistance;
  • A significant amount of change in the child care costs;
  • The child becomes disabled;
  • There is a change in the medical and dental coverage; and/or
  • Both parties agree to change the order.

Keep in mind that it is still up to the court to decide if the child support order should be modified. While there might seem like a valid reason to change the order, the court will look at the various factors and ultimately decide what is best for the situation. 

What is Your Relationship Like with the Other Parent?

The child support lawyer needs to be aware of the kind of relationship the custodial parent has with the non-custodial parent. Obtaining and receiving child support is a right of every child from the parents. 

Therefore, developing a cooperative relationship between the parents will be able useful when applying for the child support petition. Keeping the lawyer informed on the situational awareness of the relationship will assist them in the petitioning process. 

What Should I Bring to a Meeting with a Child Support Lawyer?

Before arriving to the meeting, it is crucial to plan ahead and gather the following documents: 

  • Valid identification;
  • Proof of your address;
  • Birth certificate of the child or children involved;
  • The other parent’s contact information;
  • Proof of paternity;
  • Parents and child’s social security cards;
  • Proof of income;
  • Evidence of recent child support payment, if applicable;
  • Divorce decree, if applicable;
  • Existing child support orders; and
  • Additional financial documents that you find relevant.

It is always important to be honest with your attorney. Remember that they are there to help you and keeping information from them will only hurt your case.

Where Can I Find the Right Lawyer to Help Me with Child Support?

Child support lawyers are available to provide guidance on this complicated process. But first, gather the necessary information or documents to ensure that the meetings are helpful for you and your attorney.