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What Is Child Support?

When parents get divorced or separate, they are still responsible for taking care of their children. Child support payments are financial support to provide for the needs of the child. Child support is generally based on the parents’ income, parenting time, needs of the child, and other relevant factors. A child support lawyer can help you understand your child support obligations, modify a child support order, and give you legal advice to deal with any child support issues.

How Much Is Child Support?

Child support is determined based on state family law and is based on the best interests of the child. In most cases, the noncustodial parent provides support to the custodial parent, where the child lives primarily. Each state has its own formula but calculating child support generally depends on several factors, including:

  • Parenting time and child custody
  • Income of the parents
  • Childcare, education, health insurance, and medical needs
  • Other support obligations, including other children

The state may provide a child support calculator to estimate child support payments. However, parents who make above a certain income limit may not fall within the child support guidelines.

How Can I Change a Child Support Order?

Your child support attorney may be able to change a child support court order to increase the amount of child support or reduce child support. A petition for child support modification may be granted where there is a “substantial change in circumstances.” A change in circumstances could include:

  • Losing your job
  • Promotion to a higher-paying job
  • Increased medical needs of the child

Either parent can petition the court for a change in child support, including a custodial parent wanting to increase payments, or the parent paying child support to lower their financial payments.

Do You Have To Pay Child Support for Stepchildren or Adopted Children?

Parents may be required to pay support if they have parenting rights or a legal obligation to care for the child. Even if the parents were never married or never even lived together, the biological mother and biological father have to provide for the child.

As with biological parents, adoptive parents take on the legal rights and obligations of raising a child. If adoptive parents get a divorce, they are still the legal guardians of the child and one adoptive parent may be required to pay child support to the other.

A stepparent will only have to pay child support for a stepchild if they adopted the child through stepparent adoption. For example, if you marry someone who has a child with another person and later get a divorce and never adopted the stepchild, there is generally no obligation to pay child support to the stepchild.

What if My Ex Isn’t Paying Child Support?

If your ex has a child support order but is not keeping up with payments, you can take action to enforce the child support order. Your state’s child support services can help you recover child support and get back support that was never paid. Your family lawyer can also help you enforce a support order, get a judgment against the delinquent parent, and levy their bank accounts or garnish their wages.

If your ex isn’t paying child support it does not mean you can stop them from seeing their child. Child support orders and child custody and visitation orders are separate. It may not seem fair that the other parent can spend time with their child if they are not providing financial support but you need to take your issues to court instead of dealing with them on your own. Stopping the other parent from spending time with their child could put you in trouble with the court.

What if I Can’t Pay Child Support?

If you lose your job, fall on hard times, or have a medical emergency that leaves you without enough money, you may not be able to pay child support. If you can’t make your child support obligations you need to go to the court and ask for a modification. A modification will only impact future payments and any past child support debt will still be there. Even if you lose your job and have no income, the family court judge may still require a minimum payment and deduct support from unemployment or Social Security insurance.

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