Child Support FAQ

Child Support FAQ

Can the parents agree to child support?

Yes, both parents can work together to develop a child support request that can be submitted to the court for consideration.  If the court finds that the stipulation or agreement can adequately provide for the child’s care and wellbeing, then the court will enter the parental agreement as the current child support order.

When should I ask the court to change a current child support order?

You should request a modification of a current child support order when the financial circumstances of either parent have significantly changed since the court entered the initial child support order.  Additionally, if the child’s needs have changed due to special health or educational circumstances, it may also be appropriate to request a modification from the court.

Does custody affect child support?

Yes, the courts will consider the amount of time the child spends in the custody of each parent when determining child support.  While custodial custody can impact the amount of child support owed by one or both parents, it is only one of several factors the courts take into account when deciding child support.

What should I do if I owe back child support?

If you find that you have an outstanding child support balance as a result of court ordered child support, it is important to act quickly in order to avoid additional penalties or criminal liability.  If you never received any papers from the court regarding child support, you may be able to petition the court to request that the default judgment be “set aside” so that you may respond to the initial child support request and provide information that could modify the amount ordered.  Getting a child support order set aside is complicated and not at all guaranteed.  It is also important to keep in mind that child support payments remain in full effect until the court enters a new child support order.

If you did receive notice but failed to pay child support for some other reason, you will be responsible for all child support owed from the date of the original order until you file a request for modification or termination of child support.  If you have had your license suspended or wages garnished, you may be able to petition the court to request that the suspension or garnishment be lifted if you can show that in doing so, your ability to pay past-due child support will improve dramatically. In many states, you may also be liable for additional interest and penalties assigned to any past due child support payments. The entire amount of child support owed (plus interest and penalties) will continue to be due until paid in full by the responsible party. Child support arrears cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, and the courts can modify only future child support payments.

Can I go to jail for failing to pay child support?

In some states, failure to pay child support can result in a “contempt of court” violation with additional penalties, including jail time.  Should you find yourself facing criminal charges as a result of unpaid child support, you have the right to an attorney and the court will provide an attorney if you cannot afford one.

Will I still owe child support if my parental rights are terminated?

In some cases, the courts will terminate the parental rights of one parent if the child will be adopted or has been removed from the home as part of protective orders issue by the court.  If your parental rights are terminated, you will no longer be responsible for providing financial support for the child. It is important to keep in mind that child support payments remain in full effect until the court modifies or terminates current child support order.

What if one parent lives in or moves to another state?

Although each state has its own laws and regulations regarding child support, all states are required to cooperate with the enforcement of child support orders entered by another state’s court.  Generally speaking, if one parent lives in a different state, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act will be triggered, allowing the parent’s resident state to enforce child support orders issued in the state where the family law court case was established.

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