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Child Support Laws: The Basics

Child Support Laws 

Child support requirements in each state follow their own individual laws. Although, these laws are slightly different from state to state, they share one thing in common, that every non-custodial parent must provide financial support for their child/children. Financial support helps in many ways. Primarily it helps afford the necessary expenses of food, utility bills, rent/mortgage, medical costs, and clothing. Single parents raising children face many challenges, that is why it is important to have child support paid by the non-custodial parent. Health coverage can also be very expensive, especially for children. Having good medical coverage can help offset those expenses. Many states have laws that make it mandatory for a child to be covered by health insurance by one parent or the other. 

Child Support Laws and Enforcement 

Some parents who are ordered to pay child support often try to avoid their obligations. These parents have come to be referred to colloquially as “deadbeat” parents. Most deadbeat parents do not pay child support for the same reason: to spite the custodial parent. Of course there are some parents who have legitimate financial difficulties and in those instances they should apply to the court for a modification of what they were previously required to pay. Others, however, may be too lazy to get a job, some may be too selfish to pay for their responsibilities. Who knows why some parents will not fulfill their responsibility of paying child support when they are financially able to do so? There are laws which can be used to enforce one’s right to receive child support from those who seek to avoid paying. Hiring an attorney to obtain the outstanding child support owed is often necessary and a good idea. The experienced family law attorney will be able to use the courts to enforce the support requirements. Some of the methods could include garnishment of the wages, interception of tax refund checks, suspensions of driver’s license, and in severe cases even jail time. It would be a good idea to contact an experienced family law attorney whether you are seeking to enforce your rights to receive child support or whether you are being sued for failing to pay child support. In this way you will be confident your rights are protected. The outcome of your support proceeding can have effects that last years and years. 

Establishing Paternity 

When a mother has a child and she is married, then the father is legally obligated to pay child support if they divorce. When a mother has a child outside of marriage in order for her to file for child support she must first establish paternity. Establishing paternity makes the non-custodial father legally obligated to contribute towards the expenses and needs of the child. If at any time the alleged father doubts that the child is his, a genetic test would be performed to discover once and for all who the father is. Locating a missing parent can be difficult, especially if they live in another state. In order to establish paternity, the custodial parent must first locate the father. 

Amount of Child Support 

Each state varies with what they require as basic and reasonable child support. Some states, like New York, have instituted formulas for child support. Normally these formulas derive a percentage of the income of the non-custodial parent. For instance, in New York the law requires a certain percentage of the parents’ combined income be paid for child support. This number will increase depending on the number of children: 17% for one, 25% for two, 29% for three and so on. This percentage is then applied to the combined parental total gross income (there is no reduction for taxes paid other than social security and Medicare). Once applied to the total combined income of the parents, the non-custodial parent will pay their pro rata (proportional) share of the child support to the custodial parent. Often in most states there are statutory mandatory minimums on how much income will be subject to the formula. Anything above that mandatory minimum will be at the court’s discretion and is usually based on the standard of living and needs of the children before the parents ended their relationship. Finally, if the non-custodial parent is also paying the custodial parent an amount of money for maintenance or alimony, then the non-custodial parent’s income will be decreased by that number and the custodial parent’s income will be increases by that number to make sure the right income is used for each.

Harrison Baron