When the parents of a child under the age of 18 get divorced it is highly likely that there will be a need for someone to pay child support. There are many factors used to figure out who pays and how much is owed, so read on to learn more about honoring this important provision in both separation and divorce agreements.
A Mix of Federal and State Law
Divorce, in general, follows the laws of the state where you divorce, but the health and well-being of minor children fall under both state and federal mandates. State law is used to determine the amount owed since the median income and cost living of the state is a consideration in that determination, and federal law steps in when it comes to enforcement. Parents who are found to have crossed state lines to avoid paying this obligation can be apprehended and prosecuted regardless of where they go in the U.S.
Income of the Parents
The earnings of both parents are taken into consideration and the higher earner is usually tasked with making up what the lower or non-earning parent can contribute financially. There are cases, however, where the high earner is also awarded custody. This does mean that the lower earning non-custodial parent is free of obligation but all factors are considered.
The Parenting Plan
What used to be called child custody and visitation is now often referred to as parenting plans. There are several to choose from and only some of them will require that child support be paid. For example, if the parents decide to go with a 50/50 or shared parenting plan then child support may not be needed, depending on the exact division of time and responsibility. Another relatively new parenting plan, known as birds nest or nesting, involves a similar split responsibility pattern between the parents. Joint custody almost always calls for child support to be ordered, with the non-custodial parent being ordered to pay it.
The laws give parents who are supporting children from previous relationships a break when it comes to determining the amount owed for support. If the parent can show that they are under current court orders to pay child support to another child and the payments are up to date then that amount is taken into consideration when forming the obligation for the current child. Unfortunately, no matter how well-intentioned, voluntary support payments of any kind are not considered in this regard.
Prepare for the Order
You and your spouse can predict an approximate amount that will be due by accessing an online calculator that will provide a ballpark estimate only. There are too many factors in a particular case to know the true amount and who will owe it without speaking to your divorce attorneys, however.
Dealing with anything related to family law can be quite complicated. Make sure that you don't try to navigate the legal system on your own. Always seek the help and advice of a lawyer.
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