Child Support Really is For Your Child

July 30, 2018

By Rachel Smith

Child support is one of the most misunderstood aspects of family law cases (which includes divorces and custody and visitation cases when the parents are not married). There are so many reasons that it is misunderstood, which I won’t go into here. Instead, let’s focus on this: child support is NOT a pay to play situation.

“S/he doesn’t pay child support. Why should they be allowed to see the kids?” “I pay child support. Why doesn’t s/he let me see the kids?” “They’re my kids. Why do I have to pay child support?” The list goes on.

Here’s three reasons why it exists and how child support is calculated.

1. It’s your responsibility.

Family law has evolved, to a certain degree, to the mentality that the court does not care who and how many people you do the horizontal tango with. However, realize that a possible consequence of your actions is creating a life. This new life is dependent on you. Family law views the parents as the adults and the minor child as the child; not the other way around. Once you become a parent, you are legally AND financially responsible for any child you create and bring into society. This support is intended for the benefit your child, not yourself or your ex.

2. Kids are expensive.

Another misconception is that child support is meant to penalize and/or the support amount is a random number. It is never meant to penalize. It is for the child. It is meant to help support the basic necessities and upbringing of the child. Remember- it takes money to raise, support, educate, and take care of a child. Child support is based on a formula. This formula takes into consideration the income/employment of both parents, the financial responsibilities of both parents, the parenting/custody and visitation schedule, the child’s needs, the child’s extracurricular activities, and other factors. All the factors are calculated together to come up with a support amount. This support amount can change depending on the child’s age, life circumstances, and the parents’ financial situation. For example, if the parent who is the payee (the paying party) is no longer employed and has limited income, their monthly balance may decrease. If the payee has children from a different relationship and has additional support obligations to those children, that will be taken into consideration as well. Therefore, because child support is based on a formula, there is almost always going to be a minimum required support amount, unless there is a deviation from the state child support chart or it is agreed upon otherwise.

3. It’s the law.

Child support is a mandatory legal and financial responsibility of the parents until the child turns 18 years old and/or graduates high school, whichever occurs later. This support also includes health insurance for the child. Parents are not legally and financially responsible for a child’s college education or any additional financial costs after that time. Parents can always come to their own personal agreement regarding financial support for children who are over 18 years old. However, this is generally not enforceable by the court. Additionally, if any parent falls into child support arrears (ie: falls behind on child support payments), the balance will grow. If there are arrears, the payee could continue paying the child support balance after the child turns 18. Furthermore, because it is a legal obligation, the court has options to legally penalize the payee if and when they fall into a significant enough balance or willfully fail to pay child support. These legal consequences can include suspending a parent’s driver license, suspending any professional license, jail time, etc….

There are many aspects involved in a family law case. It is important to be aware of these different aspects, the different factors involved in making these decisions, and how these decisions are made. Your friends and family have good intentions and may try to support you by sharing experiences, telling you stories, or providing advice. However, they are not family law attorneys and are not aware of the intricacies of child support. Do your research and talk to an attorney who understands family law, custody and visitation, and child support and can help you to understand your obligations.