Child Support Law



What is Child Support Law?

Child support law deals with the legal obligation of non-custodial parents to contribute financially to the rearing of their children. These laws are enacted at the state level. However, because a child support order remains in effect until a child reaches the age of majority (or even longer in some instances), administration of the order can become a multi-jurisdictional issue as parents and children relocate. Determinations of child support are usually incorporated into family law cases that also cover matters such as divorce, separation, paternity, custody, and visitation. Like other family law decrees, support determinations are subject to modification when appropriate.

The obligation to pay child support is considered to be independent of any other rights or responsibilities of the non-custodial parent. For example, it is quite common for a court to decide questions of child support and visitation at the same time, and the judge’s decisions on the two issues may appear in the same order. This may lead a non-custodial parent to believe that the duty to pay support and the right to visitation are mutually dependent. They are not. Even if the custodial parent wrongfully denies visitation, support must still be paid. Withholding child support for any reason can lead to contempt of court and a host of other serious consequences.

Obtaining a Child Support Decree

Requesting child support is a relatively straightforward process. If a family law case has already been opened, the parent entitled to support can simply file a petition for support with the court. A similar filing may be submitted in a new case, although special notice rules apply for initiating the case to ensure the court can lawfully assert jurisdiction over the other parent. In some cases, the non-custodial parent may be the one to request a child support order, as that parent will need to demonstrate that he or she is actively paying support before the court will grant requests pertaining to custody or visitation.

State statutes provide specific guidelines for calculating child support. To simplify the process, most states have published worksheets that allow parties to enter income and expense information to arrive at a “presumptive” monthly payment amount. This figure is said to be presumptive because it is possible to deviate upward or downward based on unique circumstances. If the parties can agree on the final amount, then a stipulated order can be submitted for the court’s approval. If the parties cannot agree, it will be necessary to hold a hearing for the judge to decide the matter.

From a tax perspective, child support payments are a neutral event. The custodial parent need not declare the payments as income, and the non-custodial parent cannot deduct them as an expense. Payments are made to the court or a state child support agency. Parents who are obligated to pay support should refuse requests for direct payment by the recipient parent. There are numerous cases in which a parent did not receive credit for child support paid directly to the other parent. Moreover, despite the fact that the money ends up going to the custodial parent, support is meant to benefit the child. Informal agreements between the parents excusing missed payments will not be recognized.

Modification of Existing Decrees

It is extremely common for child support orders to be modified from time to time to reflect changes in the living circumstances of the parties. As the child grows up, either parent may experience a sudden increase or decrease in income. The child may develop special interests or needs that result in additional expenses. If nothing else, periodic adjustments to child support will be necessary to keep up with inflation and ordinary increases in the cost of living. These and other factors can justify a modification of the support order, but the party requesting the change has the burden of proving that the changed circumstances meet the applicable legal standard in that jurisdiction.

Child Support Enforcement

In an ideal world every non-custodial parent would pay child support voluntarily. Of course this does not always happen, and it is often necessary to take steps to enforce a support order through the court system, a local government agency, or a private attorney. Child support orders are like other types of civil judgments. They can be collected by garnishing the non-custodial parent’s wages, seizing bank accounts and other personal property, or placing a lien on real estate. Special laws also allow past support to be collected from income tax refunds. Delinquent parents may also face suspension of driving privileges, passports, and professional licenses. In severe cases, a judge may decide to impose jail time as a penalty for non-payment.

Benefits of Hiring an Attorney

If you believe you have a right to collect support on behalf of your child, hiring an attorney will allow you to avoid dealing with the other parent directly. It will also help ensure your child receives as much money as possible without delay. Contact an attorney now to start the process.

Copyright HG.org

Know Your Rights!

Articles on HG.org Related to Child Support Law

  • Bird Nesting Divorce Plan: Is It a Good Idea?
    Bird nesting is a term derived from the actions of divorced parents who co-parent from a single home living with their children, instead of moving to separate homes.
  • When Divorce Extends Beyond International Borders
    Divorce is never simple. Even divorce and family law cases where both parties agree on what the outcome should be require poring through complex legal documents and processes. What happens when the parties in a divorce or custody battle don't agree? What if they not only don't agree but also don't share the same state or country of residence? That's where an experienced international divorce and family law attorney can make all the difference in the outcome.
  • I’m Getting Divorced, What Do I Do with the Credit Cards?
    A common question that is received is what happens to credit card debt when you get a divorce.
  • Effect Of Remarriage on Child Support in Maryland
    All parents have a legal obligation to financially support their children, even if those children are not in their physical custody. When a parent remarries, this often comes with financial consequences. For example, if a single, non-custodial father remarries and has another child, this could justify a modification of the child support order regarding a child from a previous marriage.
  • New Jersey Child Support Law Effect on Special Needs Kids
    On February 1, 2017, the New Jersey child support statute “Termination of Obligation to Pay Child Support” went into effect. Governor Chris Christie signed the statute into law on January 19, 2016 and the new statute will affect all orders issued before and after the February 1 effective date.
  • What to Look for in a Strong Family Law Expert Witness
    Family law requires knowledge of a broad spectrum of subjects such as divorce, child custody and even separation. An expert in these matters is able to provide help in various functions of family law within the legal realm. If a child is in the middle of a custody battle, a family law expert witness may provide the insight into the matter that the judge may not have considered or known previously.
  • Divorce after 50
    Many couples over the age of 50 have growing concerns about divorce, both in terms of its prevalence in their lives among friends and family, as well as how to go through the process themselves. Divorce rates among couples over 50 have doubled over the past 25 years, and for couples over 65, rates have tripled.
  • What Is Post-Secondary Child Support?
    Post-secondary support for a child is when, through a court order, a parent paying support to the primary custody parent continues to provide monetary support for college, vocational, trade and graduate school depending on the state, circumstances and how far the youth continues his or her education.
  • What Can Happen if You Lie about Your Finances during a Divorce
    Most divorce proceedings rely on the documentation from the husband and wife, and these files need to be accurate. If there are any assets or liabilities still hidden, this could cause complications and eventually lead to another divorce procedure.
  • Divorce as a Financial Transaction
    Divorce proceedings are full of various different transactions, and many persons take the events emotionally and with serious intent. However, when the relationship has ended, and everything else remains the same, a divorce may become nothing more than a financial transaction.
  • All Family Law Articles

    Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Family Law including: adoption, alimony, child support and custody, child visitation, collaborative law, divorce, domestic violence, elder law, juvenile crime, juvenile law, juvenile probation, paternity, pre-nuptial agreement, separation.

Child Support Law - US

Child Support Law - International

Organizations Related to Child Support Law

Publications Related to Child Support Law




Find a Lawyer

Find a Local Lawyer