Child support is just one of things that many divided families are faced with, but few understand.  After all, it can be confusing underneath all of the legal terminology, formulas used to calculate support, rules, and exceptions to the rules.  Here are 5 important things every divided family should know about child support.

  1. Both parents have a duty to support their child until they turn 18 years old:

One of the most common mistakes parents make is assuming that the dad will have to pay child support.  When a child is born, both parents have a legal duty to support that child until the child is 18 years old.  Child support is not based on the gender of the parents.  Both moms and dads can be ordered to pay child support.

  1. How support is calculated

Generally, each state has a formula that is used to calculate child support according to that particular state’s guidelines.  This formula uses the income of the parents, certain expenses, and the amount of time each parent spends with the child to determine who will pay support and how much.

  1. If your amount is more than you can afford, or less than you need to receive, you can ask for deductions or adjustments

If you are the paying parent, you can request that the court consider special circumstances and make specific deductions to lower your child support amount.  If you are the paying parent and the child support amount is less than you need to support your child, you can ask the court to consider specific circumstances and make adjustments to raise the child support amount. Special circumstances include financial hardship, low income, extraordinary health expenses, a new baby not related to your child support case, child support that you pay for a child from a different relationship, etc.  The key here is that you must specifically ask the court to consider these things.  Otherwise, the court will simply type in your basic information into the formula and generate a child support amount based on the state guidelines.

  1. The child support won’t change itself.

Regardless of your circumstances, your child support obligation continues until your child turns 18 years old or you or the other party request modification.  If for some reason you are unable to continue to meet your child support obligation, you have to inform the court and request a decrease in child support.  If your circumstances have changed and justify an increased amount of child support (i.e. you or the other parent’s income, expenses, or time with the child has changed) you must also inform the court and request an increase.  It’s important to request modification as soon as possible after you determine that you need the child support amount changed.

  1. Arrears can hurt

Failure to pay your child support, regardless of the reason, will cause you more problems that you want to deal with.  Nonpayment of child support may result in license suspension liens on your property, levies on your bank accounts, negative reports to credit bureaus, wage and tax refund garnishments, interest charges, and even criminal prosecution which can result in jail time or expensive fines.  If you are unable to pay your support, seek modification so that you can avoid getting behind in your child support and avoid unnecessary, problematic consequences.