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Child Support Law

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Do I Need a Lawyer to Establish or Enforce a Child Support Order?

No, you do not need a lawyer to establish child support, but hiring one can help. However, you may be able to figure out how much child support you need with online resources, and get a child support order from the courts, without using an attorney. There are many tools and resources that can save you money and time along the way.

You may want an attorney’s guidance if your case also involves a dispute over child custody or parenting plans. You can review your options below and consider the best path for yourself.

Online State Child Support Calculator

The guidelines for child support payments and the amount of child support are set for each state. There is a formula under each state law that allows you to plug in your information, such as:

  • Income
  • Number of children
  • Spousal support, if any
  • Social Security or other public benefits
  • Medical and dental coverage costs
  • Child care costs
  • Parenting time allocation

This makes it easy to understand how much you need and how much the other parent will need to pay you or how much you will owe the other parent. These calculators are only an estimate. Family law courts will apply the child support guidelines to your information and determine the exact number and determine what is in the best interests of the child.

The court order will then tell the obligor parent – the parent who pays – how much they need to pay you and how often. The court order may also determine what health insurance the parents need to provide.

Your state’s website should have a child support page explaining the law and calculating the estimated total.

Child Support Agencies in Your State

Your county is an important resource when it comes to establishing and enforcing child support. There are also options for low-income families that reduce or waive fees during the process.

These offices have free child support services for people who receive public assistance or financial support, such as food stamps, Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF), or Medicaid benefits.

Even if you don’t receive public assistance, you can pay a $25 fee to get help with a child support order.

These agencies have free resources and people to help you along the process. Federal law requires state and local child support agencies to assist you in establishing and/or enforcing a child support order.

However, these agencies deal strictly with child support, and not with any other issues concerning your child. For these types of matters, such as custody and visitation, you will likely need a lawyer.

Working With an Experienced Family Attorney

You can hire a lawyer to help you establish a child support order. This can be particularly wise when you have child support issues with your ex. It can be essential if you have other problems with your ex that concern your child. A lawyer can help:

  • Find your ex
  • Serve them with a legal notice that you want child support
  • Document any income your ex receives
  • Determine the financial information you need to correctly calculate a child support obligation for your ex

Issues such as child custody and visitation are important and often must be resolved through the court system. For these types of problems, you can hire a lawyer who is experienced in family law matters.

Where Do You Begin?

It can be helpful to learn about the child support order process and hire an attorney later on. Only you know when a process is becoming too complicated, or a mistake could be made.

Whenever you decide to hire a private lawyer or work with a child support agency lawyer, they can guide you through the process.

Enforcement: When A Parent Doesn’t Pay

Once a child support order is established, it can be difficult for some parents to enforce it. If your ex doesn’t pay child support, you must enforce the court order through your local child support office or court system.

A private lawyer or a local child support office can help you with “enforcement actions” of your child support order. Both types of lawyers can help you:

  • File for garnishment orders if your ex is employed. This will take the money directly from the other parent’s wages before they get their paycheck.
  • File contempt of court proceedings. These are charges against your ex for not following the court’s child support order.
  • Intercept tax refunds. This will provide you the money before your ex can receive the check and spend it.
  • Place holds on passports until the other parent goes into a government office and deals with the missing child support.
  • Enter liens against vehicles and real estate. Liens can sell property, like your ex’s car, to pay off the debt owed to child support, or prevent someone from taking on new debt when they already owe child support.

A lawyer is helpful when you need to explore these enforcement options. It is quite challenging to navigate the legal system alone for these more complicated matters.

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