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Child Support Laws

Q&A to Help Parents Understand Various Issues Relating to Child Support

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A child support hearing will generally follow a child custody hearing. However, it may be difficult for parents to navigate the child support system. In fact, there are many questions about child support that may come to a parent's mind. Here are some questions and answers about child support to help parents:

Can I file for child support even if I'm unaware of the location of the other parent?

Yes. The federal government operates a service via the Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS) to assist parents in finding the whereabouts of another parent. Additionally, a parent may hire a private investigator to help.

What if I don't know exactly how much money my ex makes and I'd like to understand how much child support money he owes me?

The FPLS can help parents discover information about a parent such as a parent's income sources. Additionally, a court order will force a parent to present a W-2 statement.

My child's mother has not cashed my child support checks. Will my child support still be considered paid?

Yes, parents should track child support payments made and received. As long as the payments were made, they are considered paid. However, a parent who has made child support payments that are not cashed should maintain those funds in a separate account. In the event the matter is raised in court, a parent can immediately pay the back child support amount.

Which parent's income is considered?

Both parents income is considered in calculating child support payments in states that calculate based on a shared income model approach. Other states calculate child support payments based on a percentage model, which means that only the non-custodial parent's income is considered. Only the income of the actual parent, not a new spouse, however, will be considered in a child support calculation.

What if parents have shared custody?

If parents have shared or joint custody, neither parent may be ordered to pay child support. However, for states that may calculate income based on the combined income of both parents, one parent may be deemed to be the primary custodian for child support payments. There may be an offset of child support payments, with the higher earner paying child support to a lesser earner.

Are fathers always the only parent charged with paying child support?

No, a court will not discriminate against a parent based on gender. If a father is the primary custodian of a child, he can receive child support from a child's mother. Additionally, in states where both parents' income is considered for child support, a court may order a mother to pay child support if her income is substantially more than the father's income.

Can a third party custodian receive child support?

Yes, a third party can receive child support payments if the third party is considered a primary custodian of the child. However, often a third party may become a custodian due to the death of both parents. In the event of the death of parents, a third party will not receive child support because there will not be a parent to pay child support. However, a third party may be able to claim proceeds of child support from a parent's estate or governmental assistance.

Parents should refer to the specific child support guidelines of their state or speak with a qualified attorney for more information.

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