What is Child Support Law?
Child support law deals with the legal obligation of noncustodial parents to contribute financially to the rearing of their children. These laws are enacted at the state level. However, because a child support order remains in effect until a child reaches the age of majority (or even longer in some instances), administration of the order can become a multi-jurisdictional issue as parents and children relocate.
Determinations of child support are usually incorporated into family law cases that also cover matters such as divorce, separation, paternity, custody, and visitation. Like other family law decrees, support determinations are subject to modification when appropriate.
In family law and public policy, child support (or child maintenance) is an ongoing, periodic payment made by a parent for the financial benefit of a child (or parent, caregiver, guardian, or state) following the end of a marriage or other relationship.
Child maintenance is paid directly or indirectly by an obligor to an obligee for the care and support of children of a relationship that has been terminated, or in some cases never existed. Often the obligor is a non-custodial parent. The obligee is typically a custodial parent, a caregiver, a guardian, or the state.
You may disagree with the way your spouse is spending child support and want to know if his or her actions are legal. Maybe you feel a modification of child support is necessary due to a change in financial situation, but don’t know where to start. FindLaw’s Child Support section has in-depth information on dozens of child support related issues.
Child support is the financial obligation you have to support your child as he or she matures. If you have custody of your child, the courts assume that you fulfill your financial obligation. If your child does not live with you, however, the courts may require that you pay child support to the custodial parent.
Child support is based on the policy that both parents are obliged to financially support their children, even when the children are not living with both parents. Child support includes the financial support of children and not other forms of support, such as emotional support, intellectual support, physical care, or spiritual support.
Additionally, a non-custodial parent is responsible for child support payments even if they do not wish to have a relationship with the child. Courts have maintained that a child's right to financial support from parents supersedes an adult's wish not to assume a parenting role.
In the case of joint custody, calculating the child support for each parent becomes more complicated. One way to determine child support in joint custody cases accounts for two factors:
Modification of Existing Decrees:
It is extremely common for child support orders to be modified from time to time to reflect changes in the living circumstances of the parties. As the child grows up, either parent may experience a sudden increase or decrease in income.
The same income worksheets used to initially determine the appropriate amount of support may need to be resubmitted with updated information. This subsection provides state laws on the modification process and offers answers to common questions about modification.
The court determines the amounts of child support payments depending upon the parents’ income, and the amount of time each parent has physical custody of the child. Income, as identified by the court, may include: