Child Support

Managing child support can feel overwhelming at times. On top of co-parenting considerations, you may need to deal with lawyers and finances as you make, request, or contest child support payments.

Here is what you need to know to fully understand the legal and personal implications of child support. The more informed you are about your responsibilities and rights, the more equipped you will be to meet your child's needs, financially and emotionally.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much is child support?

    It depends on where you live. In most states, a child is due to receive the same proportion of parental income they would get if their parents lived together. In other states, payments are a percentage of the non-custodial parent's income. A few states use a more complicated model that considers the basic needs of each parent as well as the child. Recent Census Bureau findings show that the average monthly child support payment is $460 per month.

  • What is child support?

    Child support is money paid by one parent to the other for the purpose of supporting a child's basic needs, like shelter, clothing, food, and education. Usually, the non-custodial parent (not the child's primary caregiver) pays child support to the custodial parent (the child's primary caregiver). Judges, guided by state laws, determine child support payment responsibilities and amounts.

  • Is child support taxable?

    No. Any child support payments you receive are not considered part of your taxable gross income by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). If you are paying child support, you can't deduct totals from your taxes.

  • How does child support work?

    While arrangements are sometimes determined as part of divorce proceedings, the process often begins when the custodial (primary) parent applies for support through their local child support agency. It's the job of this agency to collect information about both parents and help route child support payments.

  • How to file for child support?

    You can find child support filing instructions for your state at the website for the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement. You'll find many application documents online, but you will typically need to submit them in person at your local child support services office. If one parent loses their job or your child has new medical or educational needs, you'll file a change request through the same office.

  • What is child support used for?

    Child support is calculated to meet a child's basic needs, such as food, clothing, books, furniture, medical expenses, school, and extracurricular program costs. Child support can be used toward some expenses that benefit both the child and the custodial parent, like rent, mortgage, child care, or car payments.

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Page Sources
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  1. National Conference of State Legislatures. Child support guideline models.

  2. U.S. Census Bureau. Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2017.

  3. Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute. Child support.

  4. Institutional Revenue Service. Frequently asked questions: alimony, child support, court awards, damages.

  5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Office of Child Support Enforcement. How does child support work?

  6. FindLaw. What does child support cover?

  7. Cornell School of Law Legal Information Institute. Joint custody.

  8. Cornell School of Law Legal Information Institute. Physical custody.

  9. FindLaw. Legal custody.