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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In joint custody, both parents are responsible for a child's day-to-day well-being. Parents with joint custody generally have an equal say in making major decisions when it comes to a child's health, education, and welfare. They usually split time with their child, though not necessarily 50-50.
Child support payments are made from one parent to the other to ensure their child's well-being. Based on the calculations involving parental income and a child's individual needs, a judge issues child support payment orders to parents. Parents can usually stop paying child support once a child turns 18. However, many states now allow child support payments to continue past the age of 18 if the child is still financially dependent and/or enrolled in college.
You can apply for child support services through your local child support agency. These agencies provide guidance to both the parent asking for support and the parent paying it. Their services include finding missing parents, establishing paternity, making sure court orders are being followed, and transferring payments between parents.
Once a judge issues a child support order, parents are obligated to follow its terms unless one person files and is granted a request for a modification. If your child's other parent fails to make child support payments, you can bring your case to state (and sometimes federal) court, where a judge may jail or fine the parent who's not following orders.
A child support debit card is one way to receive support payments. In many states, child support agencies will transfer funds directly to your debit card. Other parents opt to have money disbursed into a personal bank account. Check with your local or state child support officials to learn your options for collecting payments.
Physical custody is the in-person care and supervision of a child. In joint custody arrangements, a child spends time living with each of their separated parents. If just one parent wants to—or is fit to—care for a child, they might be granted sole physical custody.
A parent with legal custody of a child has the right to make or participate in decisions about a child's education, medical care, and religious instruction. Unless a court deems a parent unable to make sound judgments (due to drug abuse or domestic violence, for instance), parents share legal custody over a child. A parent can have legal custody of a child even if they don't have physical custody.
National Conference of State Legislatures. Child support guideline models.
U.S. Census Bureau. Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2017.
Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute. Child support.
Institutional Revenue Service. Frequently asked questions: alimony, child support, court awards, damages.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Office of Child Support Enforcement. How does child support work?
FindLaw. What does child support cover?
Cornell School of Law Legal Information Institute. Joint custody.
Cornell School of Law Legal Information Institute. Physical custody.
FindLaw. Legal custody.