What Do I Need to Know About the Child Support Process?

The current American child support system grew out of the rights and responsibilities afforded to the parents of minor children under the law. The law goes to great lengths to honor the unique bond between parent and child. Unless a parent is deemed unfit, voluntarily gives up their parental rights, becomes involuntarily incapacitated or some other extraordinary exception applies, parents are granted significant rights to their children under the law. To a significant extent, parents dictate where their children are schooled, when they receive medical care, where they live and what they are and are not allowed to do on a regular basis.

With these extensive rights come certain responsibilities. In order to maintain legal authority over a child and that child’s wellbeing, a parent cannot neglect or abuse that child. Failure to meet certain minimum standards may result in a temporary or permanent termination of parental rights by the state. One of these minimum standards is supporting one’s child physically and/or financially. Even parents who do not maintain physical custody of their children must provide financial support or risk serious legal consequences. The state frowns upon individuals who choose to procreate and then fail to provide their children with basic necessities.

Child Support Orders

Each state has a slightly different way of determining how child support orders are constructed. In general, non-custodial parents must pay a certain minimum amount of support on a monthly basis until a child turns 18 or graduates from high school. Any amount of support that exceeds the minimum may be negotiated between co-parents, when applicable and appropriate. For example, a parent may agree to pay a child’s school fees in addition to a minimum amount of support. If that term is included in either a support or custody order, it becomes legally enforceable even though it exceeds the minimum amount owed under the law.

Because child support orders are legally enforceable, failure to pay may result in a host of negative legal consequences. If a parent consistently fails to meet these obligations, the receiving parent may work with an attorney to file an enforcement action. And if serious changes to a family’s financial situation occur after original orders go into effect, orders may potentially be modified via negotiation or formal petition.

Child Support Assistance Is Available

If you have questions or concerns about paying, receiving or modifying child support, please consider reaching out to a child support lawyer experienced in matters of family law. Too often, parents do not seek legal guidance until they are facing a significant legal obstacle. In reality, lawyers can serve as excellent resources in a proactive capacity. 

Speaking with an attorney does not obligate you to take any action at all. It simply allows you to have your questions answered so that your decisions can be better informed as you move forward. So, if you have any questions or concerns about child support, please consider connecting with an experienced family law attorney today.