The purpose of child support is to allow for the custodial parent or parents to pay for all of the monthly expenses related to the care and wellbeing of the child or children of the relationship. Each state may differ slightly in its methods for calculating the amount owed by one or both parents, but generally speaking, the courts will consider the income of each parent, the percentage of time the child spends in each household, and the necessary expenses related to the child’s upbringing based on the child’s previous lifestyle prior to separation.
While each parent is responsible for fulfilling the financial needs of the child, the court cannot compel payment by one or both parents until a child support order has been issued. Usually, child support orders remain in effect until the child has turned 18 or has petitioned the court for emancipation. Child support can be requested as part of a divorce proceeding, a domestic violence action, or paternity. Child support may also be ordered by a state or local agency if the child is in protective custody or foster care.
When calculating child support, the courts will look at the net income of each parent as well as the potential income possible, along with any other income the parent may be receiving (i.e. a paid annuity, state or federal support, etc.). Health expenses, union dues, retirement contributions, and other factors are also considered. The courts will also consider any extraordinary educational or medical associated with one or more children of the relationship. The courts will also calculate the amount of time the child spends with each parent, as well as if one or both parents is appointed as the custodial parent or parent with primary physical custody.
It is important to pay any child support ordered by the court. Failure to pay child support, also known as a Contempt or Arrears, will result in further penalties and interest applied to the amount owed each month. Additionally, the courts may have the power to garnish your wages and suspend your driver’s license until such time as all the past-due child support (plus interest/penalties) has been paid in full. If the court determines that one party is willfully avoiding payment of court ordered child support, that party could be found “in contempt of court” and face criminal charges, including jail time.
At any time, a parent can request that the courts modify current child support orders based on a change of income or the percentage of time the child spends with each parent. A child support modification request can be filed with the court as part of a current divorce or paternity action, or as a request to modify the original order. Additionally, a parent can ask the courts to terminate child support in the event the child reaches the age of majority, is emancipated, gets married, joins the military, or dies. It is important to remember that child support payments must be paid until the court enters a new modification or termination order.