Parents have both moral and legal obligation for financial support of their biological or adopted children. This includes making sure that they are properly clothed, fed, and sheltered and that they have access to education and proper medical care.
Failure to provide for your children can land you in trouble with the law and have a devastating effect on the child’s growth and development. The following checklist can assist you with establishing the terms of your child support arrangements and help keep you up to date with your obligation.
1. Get the terms right
Many times parents can avoid a child support dispute by entering into some kind of agreement by themselves and without the court getting involved. This allows the parents to 1) avoid the cost of filing a court action, 2) keep the peace, and, in some cases, 3) expedite the divorce.
No matter what the reason, an out-of-court child support agreement can be an easy way to avoid disputes and court involvement. However, child support is for the benefit of the child and an out-of-court child support agreement will not enable a parent to negotiate away the statutory rights of the child.
Each state has specific guidelines that parents and judges must follow when determining the appropriate amount of child support to be paid. If an out-of-court child support agreement provides for less child support than what the law requires, it will not prohibit the receiving parent from going after the paying parent for the appropriate amount of child support owed under the law.
The receiving parent will then be entitled to go after the paying parent for backing child support at any time. In other words, if you were the paying parent and entered into a child support agreement without the court’s intervention, you may be required to pay back child support equivalent to what you should have been paying pursuant to the state’s statutory guidelines, and the difference could mean thousands of dollars.
2. Keep contact information handy
Just in case you need to modify your child support in the future, you should always have handy your co-parent’s contact information along with the contact information for his or her attorney and the agency responsible for the administration of child support payments in your state.
3. Set up child support withholdings
In some states, the paying parent is allowed (or required) to set up an income withholding order to disburse child support payments. This order instructs the paying parent’s employer to deduct the required amount of child support from his or her paycheck and send it directly to the state agency responsible for the administration of child support payments.
Child support withholdings are a fast and an efficient way to distribute child support payments, keep track of child support payments, and make life easier for both parents.
4. Keep contact information up-to-date
You should always keep your co-parent, attorney, and the agency responsible for the administration of child support in your state updated with your most current contact information.
In addition, you should promptly notify them of any substantial changes in your circumstances that may be grounds for a modification of your child support, especially any change in your child custody arrangements.
5. Modifying child support
Generally, you can file for a modification of child support whenever there is a significant change in circumstances that is no fault of your own. In order to obtain a modification, you must show that a significant change in circumstances has occurred since the last child support order or judgment.
Typically, a modification of child support may be pursued if any of following circumstances apply:
- The current order is at least 2 years old
- The custodial parent moves in with a new partner
- Any unanticipated significant increase in the cost of educating your child
- An increase in the income or assets of the noncustodial parent
- A reduction in the income of the noncustodial parent due to illness, injury, or loss of employment
- Health insurance previously available at reasonable cost is no longer available
- Health insurance previously unavailable at a reasonable cost has become available
- Any other change in circumstances that has occurred
If you believe that you are entitled to a modification of your child support, or if you have any other questions regarding the child support you pay or receive, you should contact an experienced family law attorney to discuss the issue. The longer you wait, the more child support you may unnecessarily pay, or go without receiving.