Child Support Basics

No matter how messy or difficult a long-term break up or divorce might be, children should take priority if they are involved. No matter what kind of problems you and your partner have had, it is essential that, if you have created a child, to care for that person and make sure their basic needs are being satisfied. Child support can be a complicated and confusing ordeal and will always be unique depending on the people involved. It is key to remember that you are not just paying another bill, but providing necessary support to the child or children you have created and love. Each set of circumstances revolving around a child support situation will affect who will have to pay child support as well as how much the payments will have to be. Each state has assigned its own individual laws to the process of child support and applies different versions of a basic formula.

What is Child Support?
When two people in a relationship who have conceived a child decide to separate, the child will live with one of the two parents. This parent is known as the "custodial" parent and cares for the child's day-to-day needs, in person. The child lives with the custodial parent and relies on them for daily life. The custodial parent also pays to support the child, but not in the same way the other parent does. By taking care of the child's day-to-day expenses and responsibilities, they are satisfying their responsibility of child support.

The parent who is no longer living with the child on a day-to-day basis is known as the "non-custodial" parent. While visitations can occur, the non-custodial parent will spend much less time with the child than the custodial parent. Therefore, because the non-custodial parent cannot provide for their child in person every day, they are required by law to pay child support. This simply means that the non-custodial parent is legally obligated to send financial support, in the amount decided by state law and according to the specific circumstances, to the custodial parent. That money is then used by the custodial parent to pay for necessities involving the child.

Many people believe that marriage is necessary to constitute child support, but that is not true. Two people who have a child together, whether a marriage existed or not, will be required to provide child support in some way. Around one fourth of every child born in the United States is born to unmarried parents, so it is necessary to require that parents of children, whether they were ever married or not, are forced to pay child support. If a third party is the main caregiver for the child, then both parents are required to pay child support to provide for the child even though neither members of the original relationship are designated as the custodial parent.

The official order that requires one parent to pay child support is known, logically, as a Child Support Order. This order basically states which parent is obligated to pay child support to the other parent, how often this payment should be made, and how much the payments should be made for. The child support order is simply an official way to state the terms of the child support situation.

Amount of Child Support
The amount of child support a parent is obligated to pay is determined according to each state and their specific circumstances. Generally, the amount of money a non-custodial parent will be obligated to pay to the custodial parent depends on the income of the two parents combined and how many children are being cared for. The amount the non-custodial parent must pay is also relative to their standard of living, the children's special needs, and other specific issues such as the resources of the custodial parent. The amount paid for child support can definitely be adjusted according to changes in situation, if specific circumstances grant the action. One example would be if the non-custodial parent changed jobs.

Here is a very general example of how a child support issue might be resolved. John and Mary, who have a young child, bring in around $100,000 each year, combined. John, however, makes two thirds of the money. When John and Mary separate, Mary is made the custodial parent. Therefore, John, as the non-custodial parent, will probably be obligated to pay around two thirds of the total amount needed to support their child. Even though they were not married, John will still be required to pay child support to Mary.

Here are some further real-life examples. A man who makes around $40,000 will probably end up paying around $8,000 in child support. That is if he has one child. If he has two children, that number increases to about $10,000. Remember, each state has its own individual standards for child support. For example, here is a look at the differences between New York and Illinois. For one child, the child support in New York will require 17% of your income while Illinois will require 20%. In New York, a non-custodial parent is required to pay 35% if they are supporting five or more children. In Illinois, however, non-custodial parents are required to pay 50% of their income to support six or more children. You can see how the situation will be different depending on where it occurs.

Length of Child Support
The amount of time child support payments must be paid is a cut and dry issue that is clearly defined. There are certain circumstances that must exist in order for your child support payments to stop being required; it is not usually a scheduled date. The child's 18th birthday, however, is often the day when child support is no longer required from the non-custodial parent.

Firstly, child support payments end once the child they are being paid for is no longer considered a legal minor. Once they become an adult, child support payments are no longer required because the person is considered responsible for their own support. The next way child support payments end is if the child becomes an active member of the military. Next, if the parental rights of the non-custodial parent are removed, that parent is no longer required to make child support payments. This type of situation can occur, for example, when the child is adopted by another person who replaces the original non-custodial parent. Child support payments are generally paid monthly.

Enforcement of Child Support
Although it might have been easier to avoid child support payments in the past, steps have been taken to make that basically impossible. State child support enforcement agencies have been established to make sure that non-custodial mothers and fathers are forced to pay support to custodial parents. Although it can feel like paying a bill, again, it is important to remember you are providing for the well-being of your child.

If someone does not pay their required child support, it can result in multiple actions taken to acquire that money and punishment of the non-custodial parent. A state or district attorney can get your money if it is not paid properly. Jail time is definitely possible if a parent attempts to flee the state to avoid child support payments. If a parent chooses not to pay their child support, it is lawful for the payment to literally be removed from their paycheck or taken from tax returns. Although it is surprising and unfortunate, many parents choose to attempt and avoid their child support payment until they are inevitably caught or the money is taken by other means.

Requesting More Child Support
Certain circumstances can require child support payments to be adjusted, as mentioned above. Although it is possible for child support payments to become lower, it is common for the payments to actually increase in amount. This generally happens when the custodial parent realizes they require more finances to adequately care for their child and chooses to request more child support from the non-custodial parent.

There are many unique reasons one parent can request more child support from the other. Not having enough money to provide basic childcare is one major and common reason many payments are increased. Another common reason parents request more from their ex-partners is extra medical or dental expenses, particularly when they are not covered by insurance. A non-custodial parent can also have their child payments adjusted if they are choosing voluntary unemployment or underemployment. Other issues can arise if they are relative to the lifestyle that existed when the two parents were together. For example, if two parents send their child to private elementary school and end up separating, it can be assumed that child support payments could be required for private high school. If they sent their child to a public elementary school, however, and then the custodial parent sends the child to private school, that will be considered a change in lifestyle and the non-custodial parent will probably not be obligated to pay more in child support.

The nature of child support makes each situation unique. Depending on the amount of children, both parents' income, and other aspects of the parents' lifestyle, one person's child support situation will be completely different than the next. Although it is a complicated issue, it can help greatly to keep in mind the reason for the child support. Without your support, you child you be in harm's way. By keeping this optimistic attitude, you can work through the issues and know exactly what needs to be done.