Where the primary custody of a child is with one parent, the other parent is commonly required to pay child support. The payments by the contributing parent are intended to assist in covering the costs associated with raising children. Whether through a consensual arrangement or a judge's order, payment of child support is not only crucial for the child's well-being but is also strictly enforced by state authorities. Criminal charges can be made against a parent who fails to comply payment orders by a court.

Issues relating to child maintenance should revolve around the child's best interest, not the convenience of one or both parents. This article aims to discuss topics relating to child support payments.

What is the duration of child support?

Unless specified otherwise in the court order, contributing parents are required to continue making support payments until:

  • A child has completed his or her education and has attained the age of majority (unless the child is still in high school or has special needs); or
  • In some states, where a child is drafted into the military on active duty (a motion will need to be filed with the); or
  • Through adoption or other judicial procedure, your parental rights are terminated; or
  • A court declares your minor child legally emancipated and is capable of being self-supporting.

Consequences of the Custody Judgment

All parents have an obligation and responsibility to be fiscally responsible for their minor children. In divorce situations, one parent usually retains physical custody of the children. The custodial parent fulfils parental responsibilities.

The non-custodial parent is expected to contribute child support to meet the children's financial needs and assist with the financial commitments of the custodial parent.

In the bulk of shared custody situations, the court determines the sum of money each parent should pay. It considers how much each parent provides to a couple's combined salary and how much time each parent has physical responsibility for the child.

When You Are Not Married and Need Child Support

Marriage has no bearing on one's duty to care for a child.

Parents owe a duty to their children to continue supporting them after the marriage has dissolved.

Legally, parental duties are established by:

  • A parent accepting and acknowledging that a child is their biological offspring; or
  • A pregnancy test to establish your paternity. 

The definition of a parent varies from state to state. Where there are doubts about your parentage, you should seek legal advice from a family law attorney in your area.

In certain circumstances, such as when the child's mother receives government handouts, any child support payable by the father will be directed directly to the state, where it is divided with the federal government. Additionally, the government might well pursue reimbursement from the father for any aid payments made to the mother prior to support payments being intercepted.

A Stepfather's Obligations

Stepfathers are not normally legally responsible for child support. An exception is if a stepfather decides to adopt a child (thereby ending the biological father's rights to the child); in such circumstances, the stepfather assumes fiscal responsibility for the child. 

Basis of Child Support Payment Calculation

Every state is required by law to set minimum standards for determining child support owed to children by their biological or adoptive parents. These standards are usually based on the income and expenses of the parties.

Individual state governments have a great deal of latitude in establishing these regulations. This means that the amount of child support that must be paid can differ significantly from one state to the next, even though the circumstances of cases may be almost identical.

A judge will consider a range of factors, including the child's quality of life before to the separation, the child's specific requirements, the wealth of the primary caregiver, and the capacity of the non-custodial parent to pay child support.

In the majority of states, judges have wide authority over how these payouts are determined. For the non-custodial father, it is critical to voluntarily provide the court with full and accurate details to ensure that the payments are as equitable as possible.

Income tax and Child Support Payments

Under the current tax code, the Inland Revenue does not classify child support payments as taxable income of the receiving parent. In other words, child support payments cannot be deducted as an expense by the non-custodial paying parent and thus are not taxable for the receiving custodial parent. When estimating your total income for tax return purposes, any child support payments that you have collected should be excluded.

Child Support and State Disability Benefits

Once you claim disability benefits as a result of your previous job, these benefits are considered earnings for the purposes of child support calculations. Suppose that a government department employed you until becoming disabled, and the agency now pays you your disability payments.

If the disability payments you receive are means-tested (based on your income), these are not treated as income for the purpose of calculating child support. Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which the Social Security Administration provides, is one such example. Since it is dependent on an individual's previous job before becoming handicapped, Social Security Disability Income is considered income.

Modifying Payment Obligations

Where the income of the contributing parent changes, the payment obligation may need to be reviewed. When a father quits his full-time work and returns to education, his child support obligation is generally not decreased. However, this is dependent on the court as well as the individual circumstances. If a father loses his employment and later accepts a lower-paying one, it may be necessary to reevaluate the child support payment owed to the mother.

It is logical to consider a review of child support payments where significant changes arise, for example:

  • After remarriage, the income of a parent may change.
  • Whether the contributing parent has a change in employment that has an impact on their ability to pay.
  • The child's needs have changed or are different from those that were anticipated whenever the original amount was determined.

Court-ordered child support payments may only be modified by a court. The court must review the application for alteration from a parent. If both parents agree on the need for a modification, the process is typically straightforward. If there is a dispute between the parents, a family court lawyer will request the court for a hearing on their behalf.

A Parent wanting to alter the objections of the other parent will have the responsibility of demonstrating what has changed and why a different amount (higher or lower) should be required to compensate for the change.

Situations justifying temporary changes include:

  • medical issues, 
  • shifts in job status, 
  • and economic strain on the part of the receiving parent for a limited time period.

Withholding Child Support

Non-custodial fathers frequently express dissatisfaction with their ex-partners to refusal comply with custody and visitation rules. Non-custodial parents are often inclined to refuse to pay child support in such cases as a bargaining tool. This is not acceptable and would be in breach of the court order.

Child support payment obligations and visitation rights are considered independent issues under the law and non-custodial parents have no rights to make them conditional on each other.

If your ex-partner fails to comply with the custody decision for mandatory visits, then you will have to return to court to have the court ruling enforced. Irrespective of visitation concerns and issues, you have a financial commitment to support your children.

Nonpayment Consequences

Failure to meet your child support obligations on time can be a huge hassle for you. If you do not meet your required child support commitments, you are risking the intrusion of the legal system in your life and financial affairs.

You could not only lose your reputation with the judge and state government officials, but then you can also lose your job. Because of the strained relationship, it will be more difficult to adjust to your court-ordered custody arrangements, or even other elements of your legal relationship with your children and ex-wife.

The court order filed in your divorce and custody proceedings specifies your obligations on the amount and the payment timetable. The order may also specify circumstances that may necessitate adjusting your financial obligations in the future. 

For example, variations may be required in the event of a significant rise in your income which could be incorporated to your support obligations, and also what you would be permitted to do with a financial windfall as in an inheritance or an insurance payout, will be specified in some cases by these conditions.

Failure to adhere to the child support arrangement is considered to be a violation of a judicial order. The following are examples are possible repercussions:

  • Prison time on a short-term basis
  • Forfeiture of your earnings
  • Tax refunds being intercepted by the IRS.
  • Confiscation of your property
  • Suspended business license and/or driver's license

Garnishing wages is amongst the most unpleasant repercussions since it entails your employers withholding part, all, or all of your earnings and paying it to the government. If your employer is involved in your past due child support payments, you may face issues at your workplace.

The federal Consumer Credit Protection Act, Title III, makes it illegal for a company to fire an employee for receiving a garnishment for any one payment obligation.

Unfortunately, if you do have several garnish orders in addition to child support, such as unpaid taxes or other debts, you may face problems in your workplace.

If you are really struggling to pay your child support responsibilities, you may want to explore making a revised budget plan, cutting your costs, locating to less costly accommodations, purchasing a less costly vehicle, or discussing with debtors to reduce your total monthly installments.

These options appear to be harsh but may be necessary in order to afford your responsibilities and pay for your child's welfare. You may well have to live a more frugal lifestyle.

 Should you lose your job, get a salary cut, incur substantial medical expenses, or have any other complicating factors, you should begin the process of changing your child support payment commitments right away.

Call your state's child support enforcement department and seek a motion to be filed to adjust the order for your child support payments to be altered.

In many of these situations, even though a decrease is justified after the incident, the laws prevent a court from retrospectively decreasing a child support payment. As a result, you would not be able to claim for any amounts that you were obligated to pay prior to the revised court order.

If you fall behind with your child support payments, it can cause major problems. Ignoring your responsibilities can have many serious ramifications for you as well as your family.

Mothers Refusing to Make Court Ordered Payments

Federal law requires either the state or district attorney to assist you in collecting delinquent child support payments payable to you by your child's mother.

Many state governments have an administrative structure to secure these payments. When you are owed child support, this is often the best place to begin.