What is Child Support?

If you are a parent, you should have at least a basic understanding of child support, even if you think that your relationship is secure. When two parents separate, or were never married or seriously together to begin with, child support payments may need to be made.

The Custodial Parent

If one parent has custody of the child, that parent is expected to automatically support the child, at least to a certain degree. They will not have to actually pay child support, but they will be paying for the child’s food, housing, and other expenses.

The Non-Custodial Parent

The non-custodial parent, or the parent that the child doesn’t live with, may be expected to pay child support. If you are the custodial parent, you have the option to try to get the other parent to pay child support. If you are the non-custodial parent and the court orders you to, you must pay the amount that the court tells you to pay on a monthly basis. Some parents make their own child support agreements, but many legalize the agreement.

Joint Custody Situations

In some cases, parents share custody of the child or children. If a joint custody child support case goes to court, a judge will look at two basic factors. The first factor is how long the child stays with each parent. The judge will try to strike a balance between physical and emotional time versus money spent. So, the parent that spends the least amount of time with the child is likely to have to pay child support.

The judge will also look at the financial resources of each parent. The parent who makes the most money may be required to contribute more to supporting the children financially.

Other Child Support Factors

There are several other factors that can determine whether or not you have to pay child support or can collect it from your ex-spouse, depending on the situation. Those factors may also determine how much you or your ex might have to pay. Some of those factors include:

  • Whether or not your child has ever lived with you or the other parent.
  • Whether or not you were ever married to the other parent.
  • The child’s standard of living prior to the separation.
  • Any special needs that the child may have.
  • The financial status of both you and the other parent.
  • The financial and emotional support network of the child and whichever parent has custody.

If you are unsure about whether or not you or your ex-spouse should pay child support, your best bet is to contact your local Department of Child Support Services for more information. However, you should note that some states refer to it as the Department of Child Support Enforcement, or another similar name.