Separation is hard; it’s only harder with kids involved. The entire process of balancing schedules, talking strategy, and maintaining friendly relations can be a tricky balancing act, especially if there’s a history of frustration and hurt feelings to deal with. This, combined with the reputation of child support being difficult to get, are enough to lead many exhausted parents away from the “struggle” of achieving legal child support.
Despite what many may think, child support orders are put in place for the protection of you, your parenting partners, and your child. Not only that, they are surprisingly easy to file! By taking the necessary steps now, you can avoid future pain and financial struggle.
In this article, we’ll be discussing how to file for child support in today’s world, as well as reviewing a few common misconceptions. Read on to learn more about what this support means in the modern world.
Filing for Child Support
In the past, filing for child support required multiple trips to a courthouse, digging through documents, and searching for evidence that your parenting partner wasn’t pulling his or her weight. Today, much of that stress has been relieved through the help of the internet and increased organized government assistance!
- Establish Parental Connection
The first step in achieving child support is to establish a parental connection. In the case of identifying a child’s mother, this is obviously simple; just look at the birth certificate. When it comes to identifying a father, this process can become slightly more complicated.
Unfortunately, if the father’s name isn’t listed on a birth certificate and the father refuses to admit to parental rights, the mother must file a paternity case. Doing so requires getting a lawyer, drawing up proper paperwork, and paying any associated court fees. In most cases, the court fees associated with such cases are just under 300 dollars.
If just reading about these fees is enough to cause your stomach to sink, don’t lose hope! There are waivers available for anyone whose income is under a certain amount or for those on financial assistance. Reach out to your lawyer for advice on how your specific state handles situations such as these.
The good news is that once you file, the burden of responsibility shifts from your shoulders to the other person’s. The court will ensure the possible father receives this order, and if he doesn’t respond within a set period of time, he will be declared the legal father. This process is known as “paternity by default.”
- File for Child Support
Once you’ve identified the legal parents of the child in question, it’s time to file a child support order.
Every state has different child support guidelines, and so all child support payments are arranged by the state. To file a child support order, follow this link and select your state from the drop-down list. You’ll immediately be directed to another window where you can begin the actual process itself.
Once you file, the amount of time this process takes varies greatly depending on your circumstances. If you are also seeking to establish paternity, you might be waiting anywhere from six months to a year. In the best-case scenario, you may need to be patient for anywhere between one and four months.
- Enforce the Child Support Order
You’ve done it! Paternity has been established, arrangements are complete, and the legal process is underway. Now, you just have to enforce the child support order.
Again, this process can vary slightly depending on your state, but for most people, it’s a straightforward enough process. Payments can always be made online, or, if necessary, in the form of direct withdrawals from the non-custodial parent’s paycheck.
While some states allow direct payments between the parents, this process is not advisable. It puts both parties at risk. Direct payments cloud the official exchange of money, meaning that one parent or the other could potentially go back afterward to file a request for more. Online payments are by far the simplest, fastest way to ensure that the proper amount of money is being exchanged in the most above-board way possible.
As previously mentioned, the legal process of filing for child support has a lengthy, sometimes checkered past. The idea of child support itself is a fairly modern idea, only having been a legal practice since 1975! As different state and federal governments work out the kinks in the process, there have been plenty of bumps in the road but luckily those are being ironed out with time.
Below, I’ll be adressing a few common questions surrounding child support. If you have any other questions at all, glance through the publicly available Child Support Handbook, published by the Office of Child Support Enforcement.
What if the Other Parent is Unemployed?
Child support amounts are calculated based on a percentage of gross income. This means that even if a parenting partner is unemployed, they’ll owe a percentage of any government assistance, retirement, stocks, or other sources of income they earn.
In the case that the non-custodial parent genuinely can’t find work and has no source of income, you’re on far trickier footing. Some child support programs may refer both parties to services that can help them through this tough financial time, while other programs will go so far as to help the non-custodial parent find the employment they need. No matter the result, this tough situation is likely to take time, patience, and grace from both parties to manage successfully.
If you need help finding childcare during your job hunt, check out our article, “Free Child Care and Low-Cost Programs in All 50 States.”
What if They Refuse to Pay?
If the non-custodial parent refuses to pay child support, there are still avenues you can use to retrieve the money you owe.
If this parent has any source of property, be it land or a major item of value, a lien on this property can be issued. While this act on its own won’t be enough to get your money back, it will prevent the other parent from gaining money on this property until their debt has been paid. In some rare cases, states may require the immediate sale of this property in order to resolve the child support debts in your favor!
Even if the non-custodial parent doesn’t have any significant property, you can still file to have child support taken from their yearly income tax refund. If the other parent still refuses to pay, you can file a court order to potentially have their wages withheld until you get the money they owe.
How Much Child Support Will I Recieve?
Child support is calculated on a percentage basis, so the amount you officially receive depends on a number of factors: how much the non-custodial parent makes, how many children you have together, and where you live.
Every state uses a different set of calculations to determine the percentage of gross income that a non-custodial parent owes in child support. To find out how much you may be owed, you can use one of these handy online child support calculators. Keep in mind that the amount you find is only an estimate; it may differ from what you actually receive!
When Does Child Support End?
Child support ends once a child reaches the age of majority. In most states, that occurs either when the child turns eighteen or once they graduate high school. In some areas, this age may extend to the time they turn twenty-one.
To find all the details about what your state considers the age of majority, follow this link!
In its simplest form, filing for child support is a pain-free, easy process. In its most complicated, it can unfortunately be more time-consuming and headache-inducing for more parties than it should. However, with time the entire process is becoming smoother for everyone involved.
Even with road bumps along the way, filing for child support is definitely worth the time and effort. Child support isn’t an inconvenient form of revenge; it’s a necessary part of fulfilling a parent’s role to a child.