For most people, finances are a touchy subject. Add children and a divorce or separation into the mix and the subject can become polarizing at best, nuclear at worst.
When two people end a relationship, there are usually some hurt feelings and quite a bit of anger. When those people share one or more children, personal feelings can often get in the way of what’s best for the child.
The topic of child support can be one that neither party really wants to broach. However, the child’s health and wellbeing depend on it.
It’s easier to put aside personal feelings and put the child’s best interests first when you know a little bit more about how child support works and what’s going to be expected of you.
How Does Child Support Work? What You Need to Know
At the beginning of the custody and child support process, many parents wonder: how does child support work?
Here are five common questions that arise regarding child support payments.
1. What Does Child Support Cover?
Support payments need to be made on a monthly basis to pay for a child’s living, educational, and medical expenses. Support includes payments as well as health insurance.
2. Who Is Financially Responsible for the Child?
Ultimately, both legal and/or biological parents are responsible for financially supporting their child. The parent with physical custody of the child will likely receive payments from the non-custodial parent.
This does not mean that the custodial parent doesn’t have any financial responsibilities.
The support payments are what the court determines the parent would be paying to support their child if the family was still together.
3. How Long Does Child Support Last?
The parent making child support payments will be legally required to make those payments until the following happens.
- The child turns 18 years old
- The child decides to sign up for active duty military
- The parent’s parental rights are terminated
- A minor child has been declared emancipated, which means they’re declared by the court as an adult earlier than age 18 because they’ve proven to be sufficiently self-supporting.
There is one important factor to consider. If the child has special needs, turning 18 doesn’t automatically mean that the parent can stop their support payments.
4. How Does Custody Fit Into the Picture?
As was stated earlier, the parent who has physical custody receives child support from the parent who does not have custody.
What happens, though, when the parents have joint custody?
The court will calculate the percentage that each parent would’ve contributed to their joint income while married. The judge will then calculate the percentage of time that each parent enjoys physical custody of their child.
From those figures, the judge will determine how much each parent needs to contribute to support their child.
What constitutes income? The following can be subject to child support deductions.
- Wages or self-employment earnings
- Tips, commissions, or bonuses
- Annuities and interest
- Veterans benefits
- Pensions, as well as private and government retirement benefits.
- Disability, Social Security, Unemployment, or Workers’ Compensation benefits.
To figure out how much you might have to pay, you can actually figure out your child support online. Multiple websites offer a child support calculator.
Of course, a judge will ultimately determine how much is paid by each parent. But a child support calculator can give you a good estimate of what you’ll need to set aside each month for your child.
5. What If the Parents Were Never Married?
Whether parents were married or not, one of the first things a lawyer or judge may order is a paternity test. This is done to protect all parties involved. The child will be cared for by their parent, while no one will be taken advantage of.
For example, a man makes support payments because he believes he’s the child’s father but then finds out he isn’t the biological father.
Of course, a parent can voluntarily acknowledge that they are, in fact, the child’s parent. In this case, a paternity test is not necessary.
Once parentage has been established, the parents are financially responsible for the child – regardless of whether they were legally married or not.
Child Support – How to Ensure You Get What Is Owed
When parents aren’t on good terms, child support can be in jeopardy.
There have been instances in which a parent threatens to withhold support payments because there’s parenting, custody, or visitation disagreement.
Even if the custodial parent has been ordered by the court to allow the other parent to see the child regularly but refuses to do so – this is not grounds to withhold payments.
Refusing to make child support payments is illegal.
Therefore, if the non-custodial parent is not making regular payments, the other parent should contact the district attorney or the state attorney.
Federal law stipulates that state agencies have to help custodial parents collect delinquent payments. This is why many states have recovery offices, specifically designed to help parents collect child support payments that are owed.
Your Lawyer Can Help You Protect the Interests of Your Child
Despite any hurt feelings or animosity between ex-spouses, many parents put their feelings aside for the benefit of their children.
However, there are times when an ex doesn’t do his or her part to support their children.
Sometimes they feel they can’t afford the payments. And then there are some people who simply refuse to make the payments. They feel the calculations aren’t fair or that they shouldn’t have to pay in the first place.
To ensure that both parties – and in particular, the children – are protected, family attorneys often need to enter the picture. They can help with negotiations and guide the parents, giving them the information and tools they need to make their payments regularly.
Oftentimes, it’s best to have an attorney involved from the very beginning. They can defuse emotional situations and remind the parents that support payments are there to support the people they love most in the world – their children.