If you have custody of your child, or multiple children, and you want the other parent (typically the father, but not always) to pay child support, you will need to establish a child support order with the court. The steps for doing that are slightly different depending on which state you are living in, as well as whether or not the other parent lives in a different state. However, each state has a similar process.
The first thing you will need to do, if the identity of the father is legally in question, is determine the paternity. Some men may be willing to take a paternity test, but others may not. Luckily, the court can often order them to do so.
You should start by contacting your local child support agency and for assistance with verifying the father of your child. If you know who the father is, you should bring whatever proof you have to your meeting with your child support caseworker. That proof may include:
- A Certificate of Divorce
- A Certified Birth Certificate for the Child with the Father’s Name
- Letters or Other Acknowledgments by the Father to the Child
If you are unsure of where the father is, or if you need help contacting him, your local child support agency can help. To locate your local child support agency, you can start by visiting this website http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/css/state-and-tribal-child-support-agency-contacts-map and selecting your state on the map.
Petitioning the Court
Petitioning the court for child support can be done in a number of ways. You can get assistance from:
- Your Local Child Support Agency
- An Attorney
- A Mediator
If you and the other parent are on friendly terms, you can also make the entire process easier by coming up with an agreement ahead of time and presenting it to the court. However, you should note that the judge may have to alter the terms a bit, based on the laws in your state, as well as what he or she feels will be best for all of the parties involved, especially your child.
The judge will use a number of factors to establish the child support order. Some of those factors may include:
- The Income of Both Parents
- Any Income the Child May Have, Such as Inheritance from a Relative
- Special Needs of the Child (Mental or Physical)
- Prior Court Orders
- Agreements Reached by Both Parents and Presented to the Court
Enforcing the Child Support Order
Once the court has established a child support order, the final step is seeing to it that the order is enforced. If both parents are on friendly terms or the non-custodial parent is agreeable about paying child support, that should be easy. If not, the custodial parent may need to seek help getting the court order enforced. If you are the custodial parent, you can find helpful resources at your local child support agency, or at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/css.