When the parents of a child, or children, are separated or divorced, a common situation is for one of the parents to have custody of the child, while the other has visitation rights. The parent who does not have custody is still responsible for contributing to the care and support of the child.
This support usually comes in the form of child support payments. Child support payments are usually made on a monthly basis, and are calculated by balancing the needs of the child, with the income of the parent who is making the support payments. The obligation to make child support payments is gender-neutral, and either the mother or the father can be required to make them, depending on which parent has custody of the child.
Who Determines Child Support Payments?
Ideally, the parents will be able to come to an agreement amongst themselves regarding child support, and a family court will approve it, if it deems it to be sufficient. However, if they cannot come to an agreement, a court will have to make the decision.
Calculating Child Support Payments
In calculating how much money is going to have to be paid in child support payments, a court considers several factors. First, each parent will be required to conduct an audit of their finances, income, and expenses. This will give the court a starting point to help determine just how much each parent can afford to pay. In addition to looking at a person's actual income, a court will look at their earning potential, as well, when calculating support payments.
So, if a parent earns $50,000 per year at their current job, but they have the education, skills, and experience such that they could find a job paying $100,000 with relative ease, a court might calculate your child support payments as if you earn $100,000, to basically force you to go find a job to maximize your income. Of course, if the economy is doing poorly, and you can't find a higher-paying job after a very diligent search, a court will probably reconsider.
Appealing or Modifying a Child Support Judgment
A judgment requiring child support payments can be modified, if the circumstances of the parent making the payments change. For example, if the parent loses their job, incurs a major medical expense (or other unexpected and unavoidable expense), or suffers some other financial hardship through no fault of their own, their obligation to make child support payments can be reduced, or even suspended, if the financial hardship is very serious.
If a parent wants to modify their child support payment obligations, they can go to a local family court, and file a motion for the court to modify the judgment, and present evidence of their changed situation. Also, a parent can appeal the initial child support judgment if it can be shown that the court used the incorrect legal standard, or relied on inadmissible evidence, in making the initial judgment.
Find the Right Child Support Attorney
If you are a non-custodial parent, there's a very good chance that you are going to have to make child support payments. And if you're a custodial parent, you're going to want to receive child support payments. A good child support attorney can help you negotiate an agreeable child support payment arrangement with the other parent, hopefully coming to an agreement that adequately contributes to the care of the child, with a payment schedule that you can afford. If an agreement cannot be reached, your child support lawyer will also be able to make your case before a judge, helping ensure that you get the most favorable judgment possible. LegalMatch can help you find the right lawyer.