Under family law both parents have the legal responsibility to provide financial support for their children. After separation or divorce, or in the case where the parents are not married, or not living together the courts may order either or both parents to make regular payments to support a child’s living and medical expenses. These payments are called child support.
Child support payments are determined in under a set of guidelines that are based on the amount of time a child spends with a parent and each parent’s monthly income. For the purposes of child support income is defined as:
Wages from a job
Disability and workers’ compensation
Social Security or pensions
Any payments or credits due or becoming due, regardless of the source, including lottery and prize winnings.
Certain payments are exempt from gross monthly income for support payment purposes. They include:
Mandatory union dues
Child or spousal support actually being paid
Costs of raising children from another relationship
Altering a Child Support Order
Once a child support order has been issued it can only be altered by a new order or a change approved by the court. Either parent may request a review of the child support order if there is a change in circumstances. If there has been a substantial increase or decrease in the earnings by either parent, a change in the custodial arrangements, or shift in the amount of time the child spends with each parent, a court may approve a new child support agreement. This will require a notice to the local child support agency handling the case if both parties agree or a motion with the courts in the case of a disagreement.
It is typically ordered that child support continue until the child becomes 18. However, there may be special circumstances when the court may order the continuation of support beyond this time period. For example, if the child has reached 19, but is still attending high school, a court may order child support extended.
Before an order for child support can be issued, paternity of the child must be established. If the father acknowledges paternity, an affidavit can be submitted to the court. If there is doubt or dispute regarding the father, paternity tests may be ordered by the court.
Do I Need an Attorney?
Child custody and support can sometimes be among the most contentious of legal disputes. Issues of paternity, full or shared custody, visitation, payment amounts, and duration of child support can create a complex web of concerns and disagreements. It is in your best interest to retain experienced legal representation. A family law attorney can help negotiate on your behalf, and file all necessary paperwork with the courts. An attorney can not only assist you through the process, but can help you to monitor compliance with the child support order, or request adjustments to the agreement if your circumstances change.