Child Support

Following the divorce or separation (or the granting of custody to one of the unmarried parents of a child), the court may order that the non-custodial parent pay a portion of his or her income to support the child.  Less commonly, both parents may be required to pay child support to a third party that cares for their child.  The orders for child support are issued by the family court, who bases the amount of support on the state guidelines governing child support.  The amount is usually based upon the income of the non-custodial parent, as well as the number of children.  Other relevant matters, such as the income of the custodial parent and specific needs of children are also considered.  Deviation from these guidelines is possible, though simply a high income of the custodial parent is not sufficient reason, because, by law, the children have the right to benefit from the incomes of both parents.  A change in circumstances can result in the increase or decrease of the amount paid. 

Because many marriages end in divorce and children are born out of wedlock, the governmental regulation of child support is an important issue.  The matter used to be left solely in the hands of the parents; however, state child support enforcement agencies are now taking an important role in pursuing payments from non-custodial parents. The agency and the court usually work together, instating an order by which the child support amount is automatically deducted from the non-custodial parent’s paycheck. Delinquent payments may result in the agency implementing other collection mechanisms, such as withholding support amounts from tax refunds, or seizing real estate or personal property.

In cases involving unmarried mothers seeking child support, the first step is usually to legally establish the father's "paternity" of the child. This can be done voluntarily or the mother may bring a lawsuit in order to establish paternity.  This is done by using genetic (DNA) testing. The court will order the alleged father to submit to the testing in the event that he refuses to agree to do so of his own volition. After paternity is established, the court issues a child support order in a manner similar to that in a divorce situation.

If the non-custodial parent relocated to a different state, the custodial parent will likely need to rely on the Revised Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act to ensure that payments of child support are made. This Act provides the means by which a support order issued in one state can by enforced by the courts of another state.

If you are involved in a situation where you may need to pursue child support, it is recommended that you hire an experienced family lawyer who can effectively pursue your rights.