Top 10 Things to Know When Applying for Child Support

If you have custody of your child, or children, and you want to apply to get the other parent to pay child support, there are a lot of things that you need to know. Here are 10 of the most important things to get you started.

Where to Seek Assistance

The first thing you need to know is where to seek assistance. You can consult a lawyer to get a child support petition started with the court, but you do have other options. Your first step should be to contact your local or state child support agency. They can advise you of your rights, help you estimate how much you are owed, and even help you to track down the other parent.

Parent and Child Information

When you sit down with a child support caseworker at your local or state agency, he or she will want to know as much as possible about your case. So, you should prepare ahead of time. Make sure that you have information gathered that includes the names of the parents and children involved, as well as social security numbers, addresses, work information if you have it, and any information you have that can prove paternity.

How to Track Down a Father

If you don’t know where the father of your child is, but you do know who the father is, your local child support agency can help you to track him down. You can also use the Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS) by visiting

If you aren’t even sure who the father of your child is, but you know that it’s one of a certain group of people, you have the option of getting your local child support agency and possibly an attorney to help you petition the court for DNA testing. In some cases, potential fathers, when contacted, may even agree to testing without you having to petition the court first.

How to File a Child Support Petition with the Court

Once you know who the father of your child is, you can petition the court for child support. Your attorney or your local child support agency can help you to do that.

How Child Support is Calculated

Child support is usually calculated based on the non-custodial parent’s income and the number of children, mainly. However, you should see the rules in your state for more information.

How Long You Can Collect Child Support

Generally, child support is paid until the child is 18. Sometimes that is extended to 21. It may even be extended indefinitely, if the child is disabled.

What to Do if the Other Parent Leaves the State or Lived in Another State to Begin With

If the other parent is in another state, federal agencies may need to get involved. However, your local or state agency can help you to take the necessary steps to contact those agencies, if necessary. So, you should still start with your local agency.

What to Do if Circumstances Change After the Original Child Support Order is in Place

Either parent can start a new court petition to have the amount of child support changed, if there has been a change of employment or circumstances.

Whether or Not You Can Collect After Getting Married

If you marry someone who is not the father of your child, the father is still obligated to pay child support, unless your new spouse legally adopts the child or the court determines that child support is no longer necessary.

Where to Get Your Other Questions Answered

It’s good to be as prepared as possible before you apply for child support. So, be sure to visit or your local or state child support agency’s website for more information.