Children are often unwitting bystanders to their parents' personal and relationship challenges and, in cases where a child's parents split without ever marrying or decide to divorce, it's imperative that a child's needs continue to be met.
Your child deserves to have the financial support of both parents and, to help ensure that this happens, parents are encouraged to take legal action and petition for child support.
The process for obtaining child support differs depending on whether or not a support request is tied to a divorce proceeding.
How Are Child Support Determinations Made In Divorce?
As part of your divorce and related child custody case, child support determinations will also be made. To determine whether one or both parents must pay child support, the court will review an existing custody order to determine which parent has primary custody.
Primary custody is defined as being in physical custody of a child for more than 50 percent of the time within one calendar year. If you have primary custody, in most cases, your ex-spouse will be ordered to pay you child support.
How Are Child Support Determinations Made Outside Of A Divorce?
In cases where a child's parents were never married and action wasn't taken to establish legal paternity, issues related to paternity must be addressed before a petition for child support will be heard.
Paternity can be determined voluntarily, by both parents signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity, or through a court order and genetic testing. Establishing paternity has advantages for both parents as doing so not only opens the gate for child support actions to proceed, but also allows a father to petition for child custody, either primary, shared or partial custody.
What Factors Are Taken Into Account When Making Child Support Amount Determinations?
While the courts do have some discretion when making decisions related to child support amounts, monthly payments are largely determined by statute and by taking the following factors into consideration:
- Combined monthly income of both parents
- Number of children covered under the support order
- Any additional expenses related to a child's medical or education needs
To best provide for your child's needs, it's important that child support payments are made on time and in full. If you are a parent who receives child support payments and are having problems obtaining those payments, it's important to explore your legal options. Conversely, if you are a parent who is responsible for making child support payments and are having trouble making those payments because of a job loss or other extenuating circumstance, you may be able to petition the court to modify and lower the amount you pay.