Child Support FAQ

Each parent has a legal obligation to support their children. Married couples or parents cohabitating with their kids share this responsibility around the clock. But with divorced, separated, or never married parents, it is often necessary to have a court determine a parenting arrangement that distinguishes between parental custody and financial support.

Child support in its simplest form consists of financial payments made from the noncustodial parent toward the costs of raising their children. But, as with many family law questions, it can get very complicated.

How Do Courts Calculate Child Support?

While each case is unique and child support laws can vary from state to state, most states provide resources to parents give them an estimate for potential child support payments. Some states even offer a free child support calculator online. Keep in mind that these are only ballpark figures — when it comes to determining your child support obligation, the court will consider your unique financial circumstances (as well as those of the other parent) before making a final determination.

How Are Childcare Costs Factored In?

Parents may split the cost of childcare between them. Because some parents incur those costs so they can earn income, it means that a greater amount of combined income is available for the support of the child. Since childcare benefits both parents, parents often divide the cost equally or proportionately between them. The parent who actually pays the childcare expenses receives payment from the other parent.

Can You Modify an Existing Child Support Order?

Courts can modify child support agreements, but only if there has been a significant change in your financial circumstances, or those of the child’s other parent. These circumstances will vary according to your state’s laws, but most require that the change not be voluntary. For example, you can’t quit your job just to say you can’t afford child support. Additionally, you must file for a child support modification or get any change in your parenting agreement in writing before you stop making payments or make reduced payments.

Does Filing for Bankruptcy Affect Your Child Support Obligation?

It is possible. If your income has changed so drastically that you must declare bankruptcy, then you may be able to modify of your child support obligation. Be aware, however, that modifications are not retroactive, and will only affect child support payments after the request to modify.

What Are the Tax Consequences of Child Support?

For federal income tax purposes, child support payments are neither deductible nor are they considered income. The parent who makes the payments cannot deduct the amount as an expense on his or her federal tax return. While the parent who receives them does not include the amount in their gross income calculations.

Do Stepparents Have an Obligation to Support Children from a Previous Marriage?

Not usually. Stepparents are not responsible to provide support for children other than their own, unless they have adopted the child or agreed to provide support in a marital agreement.

Do All Biological Fathers Owe Child Support, Even If the Mother Agreed to an Abortion?

Yes. A biological father is responsible for paying child support unless someone else has adopted the child or a court order has severed their parental rights.

Can a Custodial Parent Sue For Back Child Support After Raising the Child Alone?

In some states, parents may collect child support owed even after the children become adults. Therefore, the parent who was supposed to pay child support cannot claim that the child is too old, or that the other parent should have tried to collect sooner. However, some child support claims are still subject to statute of limitations laws.

Can You Sue for Delinquent Child Support Funds in Small Claims Court?

Despite what you may have seen on TV, small claims courts never have jurisdiction of family law matters. You will need to go back to the family court that issued the original child support order or contact Family Support Services in your city or local courthouse to find out how to enforce the support agreement.

Is Child Support Suspended During Summer Vacations with The Noncustodial Parent?

Not unless both parents agree to a different amount during vacation periods when the children are away for long periods of time with the non­custodial parent or the order says otherwise.

Speak to an Experienced Child Support Attorney Today

This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified child support lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local child support attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.

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