Nearly half of all marriages ended in divorce, and almost one-quarter of all children were born to unmarried parents in the US. Most children who live in single-parent families have a legal right to child support from the non-custodial parent. Child support can be voluntary or ordered by the courts or by state agencies. The legal duty to support a minor child belongs to both parents, even if the custodial parent is capable of caring for the child single-handily.
Here are some common questions about child support:
Q: What is Child Support?
A: Child support is money that a non-custodial parent is ordered to pay to the custodial parent on a regular basis toward the costs of raising their children.
Q: What is a Child Support Order?
A: Child support may be ordered by the courts or by the state’s Family Support Division (FSD). Some states use different names for these services, but for the purpose of this document, we will refer to it as the FSD. The order specifies how often and how much a parent is to pay for child support.When minor children are involved, a child support order is included in a dissolution of marriage (divorce) or paternity judgment.
Q: What Amount of Child Support Will I Receive?
A: Every state establishes guidelines for the courts and the FSD to use for the calculation of child support. They take into account several factors, including the gross incomes of each parent, maintenance being paid to one of the parents, the number of children, the cost of work-related child care, the cost of health insurance for the children, and the amount of time the children spend overnight with each parent during the year. The courts and FSD, based on evidence, may choose to award a different amount than prescribed by the guidelines.
Q: Am I Entitled to a Child Support Order?
A: If you are a party to proceedings for dissolution of your marriage, legal separation or paternity, and the children are either fully or partially in your custody, you may ask the court for an award of child support (including temporary child support while your case is pending). The FSD may also be able to issue a child support order on your behalf.
Q: The Father of My Child and I Are Not Married. Can I Receive Child Support From Him?
A: Yes. Even if you are not married, you may receive child support. Once paternity is established, you may be able to obtain a child support order. Child support in a paternity suit may be ordered by the court or FSD.
Q: How Long Does it Take to Get an Order Establishing Paternity?
A: If the father of the child is unwilling to cooperate in establishing paternity and it must be proven that he is the father, establishing paternity can be a long process. Every case is different, and the time span varies widely. If, on the other hand, the father admits his paternity, the case can proceed fairly quickly.
Q: Will a Blood Test Be Done in My Paternity Case?
A: In cases where the father denies paternity, paternity tests will usually be performed on the mother, the child and the alleged father in order to determine the probability of paternity. These tests usually consist of swabbing inside the mouths of all parties, instead of a blood test.
Q: Who Can Modify a Child Support Order?
A: Only the court may modify court-ordered child support, usually only upon demonstrating changed circumstances A child support order entered by FSD may be modified by either FSD or the court.
Q: When Does Child Support Terminate?
A: Unless the child support order states otherwise, child support terminates when the child dies, marries, enters active duty in the military, becomes self-supporting, or reaches 18, unless the child is physically or mentally incapacitated, or the child is attending a secondary school program, or reaches 21, unless the order extends support past the child’s 21st birthday due to physical or mental incapacity. Rules vary by state. Check with your local FSD office.
Q: Who Can Terminate a Child Support Order?
A: Child support may be terminated by the court, FSD or the parties for any of the reasons stated above.
Q: How Do Visitation and Joint Custody Affect Child Support?
A: A parent may not deny court-ordered visitation/custody. If a parent denies visitation, the court may reduce child support if it finds that the parent receiving support has failed, without good cause, to provide visitation as ordered. The court’s order may be based upon the parties’ agreement.
Q: My Spouse and I are Separated, but Neither Has Filed for Divorce or Legal Separation. Our Children Live With Me. How Can I Get Child Support for My Kids?
A: The FSD may be able to obtain a child support order for the custodial parent. Without filing for legal separation or dissolution of marriage, the court will not be able to order an award of child support.
Q: Who Tracks My Child Support Payments?
A: The court may order that support payments be made directly to the person entitled to receive the support or to a state agency.
Q: Can I Get Child Support If I Am Receiving State Aid?
A: Some state aid programs require that you assign your support rights to the state. The state may try to establish a support order if none exists, and will be a party to any attempt to modify the support order. Check with your FSD for more information.
Q: What If the Parent Paying Support Resides Out-of-State?
A: The fact that the parent paying support lives out-of-state may make child support collection more difficult. However, all 50 states have passed laws intended to make collecting child support easier. You may want to speak with your attorney about registering your child support order in the state where the parent paying support resides.
Q: What Happens to the Child Support If I Move Out-of-State?
A: In most cases, child support is not affected if you leave the state. If you experience problems collecting child support, contact the FSD agency near your new home. Based on the court issued custody provisions in the judgment, you may either need the other parent’s consent to move or a court order allowing you to move.
Q: The Other Parent Isn’t Paying Per the Child Support Order. What Do I Do?
A: Once you have a child support order, if the support is not being paid, you will need to enforce the order. You may attempt to enforce the order privately with the parent paying support, through the court, or through FSD.
Q: How Can a Child Support Order Be Enforced?
A: Wage garnishment is usually the quickest and most effective way to enforce a child support order. A child support order may also be enforced through other methods, including real estate liens, personal property liens and attachments. However, these methods are usually more time-consuming.
Q: What is a Civil Contempt of Court?
A: A civil contempt order is another means for the court to enforce a child support order. The court may order a parent sent to jail due to his or her failure to pay ordered child support.
Source: 1-2-Law: www.12law.com