Family Law FAQ

Who is Required to Pay Child Support?

Each parent has a duty to support his or her child. It does not matter if the parents are separated, divorced or were never married. A parent’s duty to his or her child is not dependent on his or her relationship to the other parent. Child support is for the sole benefit of the child, not the parent the child lives with. Each jurisdiction has guidelines for the amount of child support that must be paid. Generally, the guidelines are based on the incomes of both parents. A judge determines the amount of child support that should be paid by each parent for each child and may deviate from the guidelines. The court weighs factors such as the needs of the child and the statutory guidelines when making the child support determination.

In the case of unmarried parents, the father must honor his child support obligations once paternity has been established. Child support payments may also be retroactive. If a father is not aware of the child for a period of time, he may be required to pay back support to the time of the child’s birth.

Adoptive parents have the same duties as biological parents in regards to child support obligations. Additionally, incarcerated parents continue to have child support obligations as well. However, incarcerated parents may have a valid claim for modification of child support payments due to their circumstances. Incarceration may also be a basis for the termination of parental rights, in some situations. Likewise, the legal obligation to pay child support is terminated if a parent gives up his or her parental rights. This may be done voluntarily, by court order or due to adoption by another individual (creating a new parental relationship).

Do I have to pay child support if my ex keeps me away from my kids?

A parent must continue to fulfill his or her legal duty to support his or her child even if the other parent has violated the visitation order. The duty to pay child support is separate from other parental duties or duties to the other parent, such as alimony or palimony. If one parent interferes with visitation, some courts may modify child support obligations until visitation is reinstated. However, this depends on the jurisdiction and the court. Legally, a court does not have to modify child support payments due to one parent’s interference with the other’s visitation rights. Visitation is for the benefit of the child, not to punish a parent for violating a court order and his or her parental responsibilities.

How long must parents support their children?

Generally, child support payments end when the child reaches the age of majority (usually age eighteen or nineteen), dies, gets married or becomes emancipated. However, there are some circumstances where the court may order post minority child support payments. One circumstance may be if the child has a mental or physical disability and is not able to support himself or herself. Another reason may be for educational purposes, such as higher education. Additionally, parents may agree, without a court order, to provide child support after their child reaches the age of majority.

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