How is child support determined?

Many families and individuals who are looking for a family law lawyer have questions surrounding child support and child custody. Both of these matters are very complex and the court system takes many factors into consideration when determining how parents will share responsibility of a child’s upbringing.

Factors in Child Support Payments

When one parent is given physical custody of the child, this parent is considered the custodial parent and their former partner is considered the non-custodial parent. In order to ensure that both parents contribute to the child’s upbringing — financially, at least —  the non-custodial parent is typically required to pay child support. Some parents do not go through the court system and instead reach their own informal agreements, with one parent agreeing to send money for the child’s needs on a regular basis. In other cases, parents choose to go through the court system.

When the court is responsible for determining a reasonable amount of child support payments, a judge will take into consideration the incomes of both parents, the number of children involved, the ages of the children, and additional costs of raising those children (such as healthcare costs and daycare costs). The goal is not to penalize the non-custodial parent, but to ensure that the child grows up with the same financial resources that would be available if the parents were together.

Courts typically use fixed models or formulas to determine what a reasonable amount of child support would be, but it’s important to note that judges can use their discretion when making final decisions. For example, a judge might require a lower amount of child support if the child spends a lot of time with their non-custodial parent or if the child will have access to a trust or inheritance.

Parents and Delinquent Child Support Payments

While many parents dutifully make their child support payments each month, some parents end up falling behind on their payments. In the legal industry, these parents are said to be “in arrears,” or “delinquent.” There are several ways that the court system can make sure that a parent is paying child support. These include:

  • Garnishing wages from the parent’s paycheck
  • Putting liens on the parent’s real estate holdings
  • Freezing the parent’s bank account
  • Suspension of the parent’s professional licenses or certifications, if applicable
  • Reporting the parent to credit bureaus
  • Charging the parent with the criminal violation of being in contempt of court
  • Placing the parent in jail

Placing the parent in jail is usually the last resort when it comes to child support payments, since an incarcerated individual cannot earn an income and make payments. If the non-custodial parent simply cannot pay child support, it may be possible to make modifications to the original child support agreement. However, as a family lawyer could tell you, it’s better to work on making modifications before you start having problems making payments on time.

Child support is very complicated and it’s generally a wise decision to reach out to a child support law firm Tampa, FL residents trust.

Thank you to our contributors at the Mckinney Law Group for the above information.


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