Legal Aid Child Support

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Child support in its legal context is court ordered support that noncustodial parents pay to a sole custodial parent to assist in providing for their children. If the custodial parent is not the mother or father of the child, typically both parents will pay support to that individual, though most child support cases only involve two parties.

Child Support Resources 

The framework that created the modern child support systems of the United States began at a federal level, through Title IV of the Social Security Act of 1935, Part D. For in-depth child support information, it is best to refer to local offices or a private attorney, since each state can interpret the SSA and set guidelines based on their conclusions, which are then implemented by their IV-D courts and agencies. In instances where parties don’t reside in the same state, additional factors determine which state maintains jurisdiction over both parents and it may be necessary for one party to research another state’s guidelines to calculate support.

The calculations themselves are relatively simple. Using any state’s family code as a guide, being one’s own child support calculator merely involves plugging numbers into a formula. Base child support is set using a percentage of income that is determined by how many children need to be addressed, and sometimes the number of other children a noncustodial parent also must take care of. In some states the income of both parties is used in calculations, others require only the income of the noncustodial parent. Retroactive judgments are always set using income at the time, so if an order requires back child support, it’s important not to use the same calculation going backward if one’s income was different at the period in question.

Other Types of Child Support Costs

Support orders can be established independently of state agencies, but there are other types of child support costs that may cause state involvement. If a custodial parent receives certain benefits for the children, such as Medicaid or TANF, the state may require noncustodial parents to provide reimbursement for those costs. Whether you’re getting a divorce or you were never married to your child’s other parent, it’s important to understand how child support issues could affect your life. Unfortunately, misinformation about this topic is prevalent, misleading many individuals who are determined to support their children financially and emotionally.

Common Child Support Myths Debunked

Here are the facts you need to know about common child support myths.

  • Myth 1: In cases of joint custody, neither parent pays child support. Fact: While you might share custody of your children equally, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the financial situation is equal in both households. Financial support is mandated by the court to ensure that both parties are sharing the cost of raising their children, even if it means that one pays support when joint custody is in place.

  • Myth 2: I’ll just have to make one payment each month. Fact: Child support encompasses several factors, including a fixed monthly payment, court-ordered incremental expenses, and negotiated incremental expenses. The last two categories include additional payments for the child’s basic living expenses, medical expenses, educational expenses, and other expenses deemed necessary by the court. In most cases, parents share the cost of these additional expenses equally.

  • Myth 3: If I’m not working, I don’t have to pay child support. Fact: Most states hold parents responsible for supporting their children even when they don’t have a job. The required payments will continue to accrue along with penalties. If you quit your job voluntarily, you could go to prison for failing to pay child support. If you are unable to work, however, you will not be penalized (in the case of job loss or disability, for example). If you’re facing issues with child custody and support, consult an attorney who can provide specific child support information for your state of residence and individual situation.