Child Support In Divorce

In a divorce, courts always try to protect the interests of the couple’s children. After a divorce, both the mother and the father have a legal responsibility to support their child as best they can.

In many divorces, the parent who does not have custody over the child is expected to pay some form of child support. This obligation is legally binding and can be enforced by the court.

Each state has a different child support calculation that determines the level of payment. Factors in the calculation usually include the parent’s income level and the needs of the child.

After the original decision about child support in divorce, circumstances can change. When this occurs, courts may be able to adjust a child support schedule or make other changes to suit the needs of the child.


How the Court Calculates Child Support

Child support payments may be mutually agreed to by both parents in a marital separation agreement. Sometimes, though, the parents cannot come to a mutual agreement. When this occurs, the court can include a child support order in a divorce judgment.

Child support orders usually require a direct payment to the custodial parent. The parent is then required to use this money to pay for the care of the couple’s child. These payments automatically stop when the child becomes an adult.

While each state has a different formula, most states consider the following factors when determining the amount of child support in divorce:

  • The age of the child
  • Any special needs of the child
  • The supporting parent’s ability to pay
  • The custodial parent’s financial needs
  • Parenting responsibilities of each party

When figuring out child support in a divorce, a court must obtain financial documents from each parent. The parents must provide honest information about their finances, including their investments and other assets they own.

Child support orders are sometimes created in an adversarial environment. This means that each parent’s attorney may cross examine the other parent in order to learn more financial information.

If one party is not satisfied with the child support order, he or she may file an appeal. However, appealing a child support decision can be difficult.


Changing and Enforcing Child Support Payments

The court in which the order was made must enforce the child support order. If a parent fails to make child support payments, the court has the power to force the parent to pay, and penalties for non-payment will vary based on state law but can include jail time.

In addition, most states have agencies tasked with enforcing child support orders. Unpaid child support keeps billions of dollars out of the hands of children each year. It is also a major cause of child poverty.

Other options to enforce a child support order can include:

  • Civil contempt lawsuit
  • Wage assignment (sometimes called garnishment)
  • Criminal prosecution

The court that made the child support order also has the power to modify it. Factors that may lead to an adjusted child support order include:

  • Increased or decreased needs of the child
  • The custodial parent’s financial circumstances changes
  • Job loss for the paying parent
  • Large inheritance for the child

If the child receives a large inheritance, or the custodial parent wins the lottery, the financial conditions that led to the first child support order have changed, and the supporting parent may request lower payments.

On the other hand, if the custodial parent loses a job, or the child has new needs, the amount of child support may need to be increased.


Little-Known Child Support Features

Some features of child support are widely known. Others, however, often catch parents by surprise. Here are unique features of some child support orders:

  • College payments. In many states, one parent may force the other parent to help with college payments, even if the child is over the age of 18. However, this is usually up to the court’s discretion.
  • No tax breaks. Contrary to popular myth, child support payments are not tax deductible. If, however, a parent pays more than half of the costs needed to pay child support, he or she may be able to claim the child as a dependent.
  • Mutual agreement. Parents do not need to go to court to settle child support in a divorce. They are free to make an agreement outside the courtroom as long as the agreement is acceptable to the court.

Child support agreements or orders can be the most contentious part of a divorce. As a result, many families seek aid from a local divorce lawyer to guide them through the process.

For more information on child support laws in your state, contact a local divorce attorney today.

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