Paying Child Support: The Ins and Outs

Financial child support is the responsibility of both parents. Still, when separation occurs, one will gain physical custody of the child, and the other parent will be the non-custodial parent. The non-custodial party will be the one paying child support.

If there is joint custody, the child maintenance is calculated based on two factors: the contribution of each party to the joint income of the family and the length of time the child stays in the physical custody of either parent. A lot of reasons play in the calculation of child support.


Who pays child support, how much, and for how long?

Generally speaking, child support ends when the child reaches the age of maturity, which is eighteen in the US. Another critical factor involves how both parents can come into an agreement on their own while being assisted and guided by the laws established by the state regarding child support.


Who is charged with paying child maintenance?

Typically, whoever has a more significant contribution to the family income and less involvement in the care of the child will be paying for child support. Please understand that this is a two-pronged requirement. The person must have a higher earning capacity and ability to assist with the family income, but along with that, this person also has less time or is less occupied with childcare.

The idea here is to trade money for the time they would be otherwise spending with their child. In a situation where a person has more considerable aid to the family income but spends a lot of time with the children, the child support payments can be modified.

If you are primarily responsible for caring for your child because you are the custodial parent, you are eligible to receive child maintenance for the benefit of your son or daughter.

The local court in every state has the power to enforce child support payments. If the parent charged with paying child support fails to do so, an arrangement can be made with the employer to deduct the child support payment from their paycheck automatically. This arrangement is called wage garnishment.

There are specific laws guiding child support in every state laws that make this relatively quick and easy.

This way, you don’t have to run after the non-paying parent and go through all sorts of trouble. You can just pass through the court system to make sure this is smooth and automatic as possible.

Also, keep in mind that different states have various enforcement mechanisms to push people to pay child support. For example, if a person becomes a lawyer or is about to take the bar exam, some require that they are current in their child support payments. This part also applies to other licensure requirements.


What is the basis for child support?

What kind of formula does the court system use to determine child support? The method is to compute the amount of maintenance a child needs. It is based on the income of both parents and the length of time the child stays with each parent.

Child support income is taxable income less than the amount spent to maintain one’s self and a specific allowance. A combined income is to add both parents’ child support income. Income percentage involves each parent’s income divided by the combined income. The cost percentage is computed based on the care and cost table.

Support percentage is the income percentage minus the cost percentage. The resulting computation will determine who pays and who receives child maintenance and how much. A cost per child will be computed based on this formula, and the final figure worked out by the summation of all the values.

When do child support payments start?

Different circumstances will dictate how long it will be until you start receiving child support payments. This point is usually tracked from the time you filed to the time you start seeing payments posted. The process may vary from state to state and may take as short as eight weeks to as long as four to six months until a court order is issued for child support payments.


Retroactive child support

In cases where the payments are not ordered yet by the court but are already obligated due to private agreement, retroactive child maintenance may be requested by the custodial parent but not always ordered by the court. For instance, a court order may be issued stating that child maintenance must be paid after the separation is finalized, but then the documents are signed weeks or months later.


How does child custody work?

When parents divorce, either both sides agree on who keeps custody of the child and who visits through an out-of-court collaborative settlement, or the family court judge decides for the parents. The basis for the decision on both options is “the best interest of the child principle.”

However, different states have different jurisprudence regarding how to determine the best interest of the child. There are different types of custody that the parents may file for. They can ask for legal, physical, sole, joint, or there may be cases where even a third party like a grandparent may be granted custody.


The relevant criteria for determining child custody

So, what are the criteria involved in deciding child custody? The court will look at the following factors:

  1. The financial situation of the parents
  2. The child’s preference
  3. The health status of the parents
  4. Who the primary caretaker of the child is
  5. The child’s safety
  6. The quality of the relationship of the child to each parent


Child Support Agreement

How is the child support agreement laid out? It is a document that states the distribution of financial burden between parents following a divorce. It can be drafted without the services of child support lawyers if the parents can come into an amicable agreement. Money and time are saved in the process.

Otherwise, if no resolution is reached, it will have to be brought to a judge who will make a better and more objective decision. This accord may be limited or binding. A limited agreement is enforced for three years and may be terminated by changes in circumstances.

A binding agreement, on the other hand, may need legal advice for both sides because it is much more challenging to end, but it does bring finality and certainty to child support. the final alternative is court-ordered child maintenance.


Is child support available in all states?

Although all fifty states have child support laws, the amount varies wildly as state-to-state child support guidelines use different yardsticks and metrics. Federal law allows every territory to set its own child maintenance rules, so numerous factors come into play in determining the amount.

For example, some states don’t take into consideration the fact that women are already part of the workforce and don’t impute their income into the formula. Some limit the increase of maintenance payments to help the non-custodial parent afford them or else it may lead to child abandonment. So literally, there are no states with no child support laws.

A case in point is New Jersey being forty-seventh in terms of child support payments ranking. NJ is one of the wealthiest and enjoys a high average standard of living. But, it can be argued that there is a need for the states to revisit their guidelines periodically to make sure that the best interest of the child is adequately addressed.

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Deborah Kelly

Deborah Kelly

As a proud single mom who has seen it all, I encourage others by sharing my experiences & curating content on divorce, adoption, child & spousal support. My passion also includes spending quality time with my kids and giving back to my community.


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