Child support isn’t something that many people enjoy talking about. If it is in your everyday thoughts life, you are either expecting it, owed it, or paying it. That can be unpleasant.
Child support can be confusing. This is especially true for fathers who haven’t had to pay child support before. Everything is changing. And on top of that, they are being asked to pay a fairly significant sum to the mothers of their children.
Of course, many wouldn’t begrudge paying since the money is for the wellbeing and upkeep of those children. However, it can still be a difficult thing to get over.
Child support can be complicated. Here are some of the most important things that fathers need to know about child support. Get these straight, and your relationship with your children can continue in the way you and they want it to. There will be no child support elephant in the room being present at all times.
How long does child support last?
Once child support payments are begun, they will generally continue regularly. This will be paid monthly or perhaps weekly until one of the following takes place:
- Becomes 18 and is no longer considered a minor. The only exception to this rule is if the child has special needs or a disability of some kind.
- Joins the military and carries out active duty.
- The child is adopted, and therefore, your parental rights are terminated.
- The child, being a minor, is declared emancipated by the courts. That means they are legally an adult even if they are not 18 because they are self-supporting.
Child support when the parents are not married
Most people’s idea of child support comes with the premise that the parents must have been married but are now divorced. The father (usually, although occasionally the mother) must pay his ex money. This is for her to care for the children they have had together.
Of course, not every set of parents is married. Therefore although this is perhaps the most pervading idea when it comes to child support, it is also a somewhat old-fashioned one. A father should financially support his children even if he were not married to their mother.
This is a legal obligation as well as a moral one when child support is part of the picture. In other words, marriage or otherwise makes no difference – if you create life, you care for that life and provide for it.
A father who denies parentage will need to have a paternity test taken to prove whether he is the father. However, in some cases, child support must be paid by a man who has welcomed a child into his home and cared for them as his own.
This is whether or not he knew he was the father or not. This is about nurture, not nature, and a biological link is not always necessary in terms of child support payments.
Having said that, a stepfather would not be legally financially responsible for a child. That is unless he had adopted that child before the breakdown of his relationship with their mother. Whether he is morally responsible or not is a different matter entirely.
How much is child support?
Perhaps one of the most glaring questions to ask is how much child support is going to be paid. This will be determined by several different factors. Firstly, it will depend on which state the child support hearings are taking place. Each state has a certain amount of discretion when it comes to determining child support payments. The amount can vary widely across the country.
Other considerations that will be taken into account include:
- Any specific needs of the child (such as special schooling or medical equipment)
- The child’s standard of living before the divorce or separation
- What resources the custodial parent has to fund day to day expenses
- The non-custodial parent’s ability to pay anything or something
Sometimes things change in life – a father might get a better job, or perhaps lose his job altogether. He might go on to have other children or go back to school. He could become ill or any number of things that will affect how much child support he can pay.
When this happens, the judge has the discretion to make adjustments to the payment. Therefore, you must keep the courts up to date with any lifestyle changes that could affect how much you have to pay.
If you find you can no longer afford child support payments at their current level, they can be reduced. If you can now afford more, they can be increased. Don’t be tempted to his the fact that you’re earning more money not. When you’re found out, you will be asked for back payments.
Can you withhold child support?
It can be tempting to withhold child support if the ex is not honoring the arrangements the judge set out. This can feel like the best way to even out the score. However, child support and visitation rights are not linked.
Child support will always be an entirely separate matter, which is why you must still pay it, no matter what else is going on.
If there is a problem with visitation, you’ll need to go back to court to deal with it. Withholding child support simply puts your child at a disadvantage and looks terrible when the courts find out. Not paying could put you in jail, and it will definitely have an impact on your credit score.
It may seem as though there is a lot to think about when you consider child support. However, in most cases, there will be plenty of chances to discuss everything with your lawyer before anything is settled. Ideally, you will be able to have an amicable discussion with your ex-wife or partner as well. This is best for everyone, including the child.
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