Child Support Glossary

Child Support Glossary

This article gives a brief description of many terms you may come across while dealing with child support issues. It will help you if you are seeking child support or being ordered to pay for child support. For more detailed information on any of the terms discussed below, seek help from an experienced family law attorney.

Accrual – The amount of accumulated child support due to be paid.

Arrearage – The amount of child support overdue.

Child Support – In family law or public policy, child support is a court-ordered periodic payment made from one parent to the other for the financial support of a child after the end of a marriage or other relationship, or legal separation.

Child Support Guidelines – Standardized formulas used to calculate child support obligations. These formulas take into account a variety of factors, including the incomes of both parties, the payor’s ability to pay, the payee’s financial needs, and other expenses that need to be paid.

Court Order – A legally binding judicial edict dictating what remedy must be given or action taken pursuant to a specific ruling in a legal case.

Child Support Order – The legally binding written decision issued by a judge of a family court that establishes the amount of child support that must be paid, the frequency of the payments, and the person who will be receiving the payments, called the payee.

Custodial Parent – The parent who is given either physical or legal custody of the child. Typically the parent with whom the child resides for the majority of the time.

Custody Order – A court order issued by a judge of a family court which establishes how custody of children will be shared between the parents (legal custody, physical custody, shared custody and visitation).

Decree – The judicial decision rendered by a court in a litigated cause, most often associated with divorce. For example, a divorce decree.

Default – Failure to respond to a civil court matter before the time limit expires after being properly served.

Defendant – A person or entity accused of a crime in a criminal prosecution, or a person or entity against whom some type of civil relief is sought in a civil case.

Dependent – A child or person who relies on another for the majority of their necessary financial needs. Typically, a child remains a dependent until he or she reaches the age of majority, gets married, or joins the military. For child support purposes, a child can remain a dependent past the age of majority if they are still a full-time student, disabled, or otherwise unable to care for themselves.

Disposable Income – For child support purposes, the amount of income a person has available after taxes and that will be subject to garnishment or withholding.

Enforcement – The use of remedies available to the court to force a party to pay child support or comply with a court order. Examples include holding a party in contempt of court (which is subject to incarceration), wage garnishment, asset seizure, license revocation, and the levying of fines or financial penalties.

Garnishment – The process by which a portion of a person’s wages or income is withheld to pay child support, usually voluntarily.

Income – Cash or cash equivalent received from work, interest on capital, business profits, investments, annuities, rental of property etc. All income is subject to withholding for child support purposes.

Income Withholding – The court ordered process by which your employer withholds a certain amount of your income or wages to be sent directly to the party to whom child support is owed.

Judgment – A judicial statement made after a case stating the facts of the case, the points or issues to be decided, the decision made on those issues, and the reasoning for the decision.

Jurisdictions – A court’s authority to rule over a person, the subject matter, geographical area, or to render a particular judgment in a legal case.

Legal Father – A man recognized by law as the father of a child, usually because he was married to the mother when the child was born or because his name appears on the child’s birth certificate.

Monthly Support Obligation – The amount of child support a person must pay monthly.

Motion – A party’s formal request to the court to issue a ruling or order in a legal case. Usually, in reference to a desired remedy or action requested by the party filing the motion. For example, a motion to modify child support.

Non-custodial Parent – The parent who has not been given primary custody of the children and who is usually required to pay child support.

Obligated – Legally required to pay child support based on a court order.

Obligation – The specific amount of child support that must be paid by the obligor to the obligee

Obligee – The person to which child support has been ordered to be paid.

Obligor – The person who has been ordered to pay child support.

Order/Notice to Withhold Child Support Services – A standardized legal form used to request that an employer withhold a portion of an employee’s wages or income for child support purposes.

Paternity – The legal relationship between a father and his biological or adoptive children established for the purpose of parental rights or child support obligations.

Payee  – The Person or entity who receives child support that is owed.

Payor – The person, usually the noncustodial parent who pays child support that is owed.

Plaintiff – The party in a civil suit who brings an action against another party (the defendant). In other words, the party doing the suing.

Pleadings – The formal written statements submitted at the beginning of a child support hearing to express the plaintiff’s cause of action and the defendant’s grounds for defense.

Recipient – The person or entity who receives child support payments.

Respondent – The party, either plaintiff or defendant, who must respond to a petition or motion.

Service of Process – Also know as “serving the other party”, is the process by which you inform the other party that you have initiated a lawsuit against them. Service happens when the person you are bringing a lawsuit against receives a copy of your complaint and a summons to appear in court to answer to the complaint.

Service by Publication – In cases where the person you are bringing a lawsuit against cannot be located, service of process can be made by publishing notice of the lawsuit in a local newspaper.

Show Cause Order – A court order requiring a person to show up in court and state why the court should not enter an order for relief of some sort. For example, to state why a motion to modify child support should not be granted.

Spousal Support – The court ordered obligation one party has to provide financial support to the other during and/or after a divorce or legal separation. Also known as alimony or maintenance.

State Parent Locator Services – Services provided by the state Child Support Enforcement Agencies to trace the whereabouts of a delinquent mother or father who is not paying their child support obligations.

Subpoena – An order issued by a court requiring a witness to come to court to testify or provide certain evidence or documents.

Summons – The official notice given to a party informing them that judgment is being sought against them in a lawsuit. It lets the defendant know that they need to come to court to fight the lawsuit.

Wage Assignment – A person’s written consent to transfer a portion their future wages or income directly to the person to whom they owe child support.

Wage Attachment – The involuntary transfer of a portion an employee’s future wages or income directly to the person to whom they owe child support.

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