Child support is the financial contribution from the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent towards the expenses of raising the child. Every child is entitled to be supported by both parents until they reach the age of majority (usually 18) or become emancipated.
Every state has specific guidelines that are followed in the determination of how much child support is to be allocated. While every state is different, they all take into consideration the income levels (earned and unearned) of both the parents as well as the expenses related to raising the child in determining the child support obligation. Most states allow a judge to deviate from the guidelines if it is determined that the situation warrants it.
When it comes to child support remember:
- The use of child support funds is at the discretion of the custodial parent. The payor may not agree with how the funds are being used, but that isn't their decision to make.
- Even in situations where the custodial parent earns more than the non-custodial parent both parents are required to contribute to the support of their children. Often, if the parents share physical custody more or less equally, the court will order the higher-income parent to make payments to the lower-income parent.
- Child support often doesn't include extracurricular activities. Whenever possible, both parents should contribute to these in addition to the court ordered child support. Often if there are specific, known extra expenses, their payment can be allocated in the divorce agreement.
- Child support is not taxable to the recipient nor is it deductible to the payer.
- Always make your child support payments on time, with pride in the knowledge that you are contributing to the support of your children. There is no room in child support for bitterness or anger at your ex.
- A parent can be required to pay child support via income withholding.
- Do not involve your children. All discussions regarding support should be handled directly between the parents.
- If you are not receiving your payments try to work it out with your ex spouse. If this is not possible or is not satisfactory then it would be better to seek professional intervention such as an attorney or mediator.
- Support and visitation are separate issues. While the financial aspect is important, it is equally important for the children to have the love and emotional support of both parents.
- While payment amounts are determined based upon specific guidelines, they can also be negotiated. If you and your ex-spouse can reach a fair and amicable decision on what the payments should be, than all those involved will be happier in the long run. Why put the determination of child support into the hands of a stranger (the judge) if you don't have to.
- CONSULT AN ATTORNEY BEFORE AGREEING TO ANY CHILD SUPPORT ARRANGEMENT.
As stated above, child support payments will continue until all the children become emancipated. Emancipation is an act by which parents relinquish their right to custody and they are no longer required to support the child. Events that cause emancipation would be the child entering into military service, the marriage of the child, or a stipulated age set forth in the support order. Emancipation should always be based on the child's best interest and not necessarily a number. Appropriate age does not always mean 18.
If you have multiple children and a child is emancipated the amount of child support can be recalculated according to the schedules and guidelines of your particular state.
Child Support Enforcement
Anyone with custody of a child that needs child support from a nonresident parent can apply for CSE services.
According to the Handbook on Child Support from the Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families Office of Child Support Enforcement there are four general types of noncustodial parents:
- Those who are willing and able to pay,
- Those who are willing but unable,
- Those who are unwilling but able, and
- Those who are unwilling and unable to provide support for their children.
The Child Support Enforcement Program is a partnership between the Federal, state and local governments and is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The program is authorized and defined by statute, Title IV-D of the Social Security Act. In 1975 legislation (Public Law 93-647) added a new part D to title IV of the Social Security Act.
The goal of the Child Support Enforcement Program is to send a strong message to all parents that they are responsible for the financial and medical support of their children. It stresses the importance of the involvement of both parents in the lives of their children. While this philosophy benefits the children it is also aimed at reducing welfare costs.
Every state must have a child support enforcement program in place. It is usually part of the Social Services Department, Attorney General's Office, or Department of Revenue. Child support enforcement programs are responsible for locating non-custodial parents, establishing paternity, establishing support orders and collecting support payments.
While the basic responsibility for administering the CSE program is left to the individual states, the Federal Government dictates the major design features of State programs. The Federal Government funds, monitors and evaluates the State programs as well as assisting states in locating absent parents and obtaining support payments.
A parent can be required to pay child support via income withholding. Past due child support can be collected from Federal and state tax refunds and or liens placed on property or sale of property.
Uncollected child support can be reported to credit reporting bureaus. Professional or drivers licenses can be suspended for nonpayment of child support. Child support agencies have the power to freeze or seize accounts in financial institutions. In some states criminal charges can be brought against parents who are chronic deadbeats with large outstanding past due balances.
To ensure that state and local child support offices have access to information that can be used to locate non custodial parents, the Federal government operates the Federal Parent Locator Service. The Federal Case Registry and the National Directory of New Hires are part of the Federal Parent Locator Service.