What is Child Support?

Child support refers to the monetary contributions that a noncustodial parent, the one who doesn’t have primary custody, must pay to the custodian, the parent who has primary custody.  

When a court orders a particular parent to pay child support, the parent must pay the funds directly to the child’s custodian instead of directly to the child. Generally, most states no longer impose an obligation to pay child support after the child has reached the age of 18.

What happens to child support funds?

Child support funds serve as a parental contribution to the child’s necessary living expenses, such as: 

  • Food
  • Shelter
  • Clothing
  • Health care
  • Education

Who must pay child support?

People only have a legal responsibility to support their own biological children. Therefore, a court can’t order a person to pay child support for a stepchild if the person never formally adopted the stepchild. The vast majority of states follow this rule, although a few states have statutes that differ concerning stepchild support. To determine the law in your particular jurisdiction, speak with a qualified child custody or family law attorney.

How is it paid?

Trial courts determine an amount by considering the unique circumstances of each case. The court will also decide the amount of the installments the noncustodial parent will pay. Factors which the court takes into account include:

  • The child’s age
  • The emotional physical condition of the child
  • The health needs of the child
  • The standard of living that the youngster would be enjoying if the family still continued to live together

States have different rules on the exact way to calculate the amount of child support owed. However, the courts typically make specific findings based on both the custodial and noncustodial parent’s net monthly income. Many states have statutes that require a parent to pay a set percentage of their annual salary. Some statutes may require that parents pay a percentage of any bonuses received as well. By law, parents are required to pay an amount reasonable or necessary for the child’s support without regard to marital issues or misconduct. 

In addition to the ordered periodic support payments, a court may also order the noncustodial parent to contribute to:

  • Future medical and dental expenses
  • Vacation and camp expenses
  • Religious or private school costs 

You must look to the laws of individual jurisdictions to find out whether a noncustodial parent must contribute when an 18-year-old enrolls at a higher educational institution. Jurisdictions also have varying statutes regarding whether death eliminates future child support obligations.

How is it enforced?

The US Congress created the Federal Parent Locator Service. Part of its purpose is to enforce child support obligations. The Service allows any authorized person to obtain and transmit information concerning an individual obligated to pay child support. Some US states permit courts to withhold wages for non-compliance. This process requires an employer to withhold a specific portion of the obligor’s earnings and give them over to the obligee. An employer who fails to adhere to the order may be subjected to penalties. The courts can also hold the non-compliant individual in contempt of court, which means they may owe both attorney’s fees and court costs.

For more information, or to find out how a child support, divorce, or a child support lawyer in Bloomington, IL can help you, call today to set up a consultation.

Thanks to Pioletti, Pioletti & Nichols for their insight into family law and child support.