Child Support Law

Child Support for Children Born Out of Wedlock, Stepchildren, Adopted Children, and Artificial Insemination

Parents have a responsibility to provide for their children’s basic needs, including clothing, food, shelter, medical care, and educational support. Many modern families are made up of more than just two birth parents and their children. Plus, families can change over time through divorce, remarriage, and adoption. And the unique family makeup may raise questions about which adults are legally responsible to provide care and support for which children.

Child support laws can be different in every state. If you have questions about child support in your specific situation, it is best to consult a child support lawyer in your state.

Does a Parent Have To Pay Child Support if They Never Married?

Yes. Marital status does not matter when it comes to child support. If unmarried parents separate, both parents are still legally responsible for their children. 

Just like with divorces, child support payments will depend on a number of factors, including both parents’ incomes and parenting-time schedules.

For unmarried couples, establishing paternity, usually through a DNA test, is essential. Until legal paternity is established, the alleged father does not have a legal obligation to provide support, and a court typically could not order support.

If the biological father does not admit that they are the biological parent of the child, the mother can file a paternity action. 

Does a Parent Have to Pay Support Even if the Other Parent Does Not Let Them See the Child?

Yes. Child support and child custody are separate legal matters. There may be an offset in the ordered child support amount based on parenting time schedules. But just because a parent does not exercise or have visitation or custody rights does not negate that parent’s financial obligation to their child. 

If your ex is not allowing you to see your child, you must go to court to establish a legal custody agreement, parenting plan, or visitation schedule. You cannot withhold child support as a way to enforce visitation rights. Child support is a legal obligation that is required no matter how often you see your children. 

Refusing to pay support can result in interest, fines, and contempt of court charges. The court can also enforce child support by putting a lien on personal property, garnishing wages, and taking a deduction from public benefits, tax refunds, and bank accounts.

If I Marry Someone With Children, Will I Owe Child Support if We Divorce?

If you marry someone with children from a prior marriage, those children are usually considered stepchildren. If you later get a divorce, stepparents are generally not required to pay child support.

However, if you adopt any of your stepchildren, you will then be the legal parent and guardian, with the same responsibilities as the birth parent. That means you could be the parent paying child support if you get a divorce.

I’m Marrying a Man Who Pays Child Support From a Previous Marriage. Do I Have to Contribute if We Get Married?

If you marry someone paying child support for a child from a previous marriage, that parent might have a child support order based on their income. If you get married and have your own income, your income will not generally be subject to your partner’s child support payments. However, you may want to maintain separate finances until you can consult with an experienced attorney about how to protect your assets.

If your finances become commingled, it may be more difficult to determine which assets belong to which spouse. If the court modifies the child support orders based on updated income information, it may complicate whether you can keep your income separate.

We Adopted a Child and Are Getting a Divorce. Who Owes Child Support?

After adoptive parents divorce, both parents are still the child’s legal guardians and responsible for the child’s support. Just like married birth parents, married adoptive parents have to determine child custody, visitation, and child support after a divorce.

Will a Sperm Donor Have To Pay Child Support?

Artificial insemination can raise some questions about legal parental rights. The legal rights and responsibilities of married parents and sperm donors depend on the state where the process occurs. In general, parents have greater protections when working with a licensed physician or a licensed sperm bank. A sperm donor working with a licensed physician or licensed sperm bank is not treated as the biological parent and has no legal or financial obligation toward the child.

Private agreements involving surrogacy and artificial insemination may be more complicated. Depending on the state, if a sperm donor and a conceiving mother make a private agreement, without the support or guidance of a licensed doctor or licensed sperm bank, it may be more difficult to determine the child’s biological or legal father. 

Get a Family Law Attorney’s Help

When it comes to child support, and figuring out who owes what, it’s always best to enlist the help of an experienced family law attorney. They can talk to you about the process and represent you in court or negotiations to protect your interests.​

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