What is Child Support?
According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), about 41% of first marriages end in divorce. For second and third marriages, that number increases to 60% and 73%, respectively. In family law and public policy, child support (or child maintenance) is an ongoing, periodic payment made by a parent for the financial benefit of a child following the end of a marriage or other relationship. Child maintenance is paid directly or indirectly by an obligor to an obligee for the care and support of children of a relationship that has been terminated, or in some cases never existed. Often the obligor is a non-custodial parent. The obligee is typically a custodial parent, a caregiver, a guardian, or the state.
Single parents with children should have a basic understanding of child support. Unless parental rights have been legally terminated, every parent in the U.S. must contribute financially to the raising of his or her child. What is Child Support? Child support is the financial obligation you have to support your child as he or she matures. If you have custody of your child, the courts assume that you fulfill your financial obligation. If your child does not live with you, however, the courts may require that you pay child support to the custodial parent.
The law governing child support in the United States varies state-by-state and tribe-by-tribe among Native Americans; each individual state and federally recognized tribe is responsible for developing its own guidelines for determining child support. In the US, child support is the ongoing obligation for a periodic payment made directly or indirectly by an (“obligor” or paying parent or payer) to an (“obligee” or receiving party or recipient) for the financial care and support of children of a relationship or a possibly terminated marriage. Typically the obligor is a non-custodial parent. Typically the obligee is a custodial parent, caregiver or guardian, or a government agency. In the U.S., there is no gender requirement to child support, for example, a father may pay a mother or a mother may pay a father. In addition, where there is joint custody, in which the child has two custodial parents and no non-custodial parents, a custodial parent may be required to pay the other custodial parent.
If the court requires that you pay child support, you will make payments until your child reaches the age of majority or adulthood, until your child is active-duty military, or until the court declares your child emancipated. If your child has special needs, you may make child support payments past childhood.
The court may legally terminate your parental rights and financial responsibilities for your child, if both you and the other parent agree that you no longer have to provide support, or if you allow someone else to adopt your child. Each state has its own guidelines for child support, and the judge typically determines the final amount. The discussion about child support begins with custody. If one parent has sole custody, the non-custodial parent typically pays most of the child support. The custodial parent may be a stay-at-home mom, or a parent who works part-time in order to care for the child. The child support payments reflect the fact that the custodial parent probably doesn’t have enough financial resources to completely provide for the child. The court determines the amounts of child support payments depending upon the parents’ income, and the amount of time each parent has physical custody of the child. Income, as identified by the court, may include:
▪ Self-employment earnings
▪ Disability payments
▪ Social Security benefits
▪ Unemployment benefits
▪ Workers’ compensation
▪ Veteran’s benefits
▪ Private or Government Retirement benefits In addition, parents cannot respond to visitation disagreements by threatening to withhold child support payments. If the custodial parent does not allow you to see your child as ordered by the court, do not make the mistake of retaliating by withholding child support payments. Refusing to submit child support payment is illegal, and this hurts your child more than the other parent.
The courts separate visitation and child support. If you do not receive your visitation rights, you need to go to the court with your evidence, and have the custody agreement enforced. Keep paying support as required, to avoid the consequences of withholding child support payments.