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Child Support Eligibility

As a parent, you may be wondering whether you're entitled to receive child support payments from your child's other parent. Typically, the parent who does not have primary custody of the child pays the custodial parent for their share of the child's financial needs.

But what factors determine child support eligibility? This article looks at considerations that can affect a parent's right to receive child support payments.

Paternity is Established

When a child is born to a married couple, the parentage of the child is presumed to be the man and woman who are married. That may not be the case for the father but without a DNA test, biological parentage is not known. The husband is the presumptive or putative father and he has paternity rights and obligations.

Paternity may also be established with a paternity test. Either parent can seek a DNA test by petitioning the court.

The Parent is the Custodial Parent

The "custodial" parent may be designated by court order (in the case of a divorce or a child custody dispute). In a single-parent household that parent is the custodial parent (while the other parent has made no effort toward seeking custody).

Although child support can vary from state to state, it is generally the case that the parent receiving child support is the "custodial parent." The custodial parent has primary physical custody of the child. The child lives with them more of the time. They are chiefly responsible for the day-to-day care of the child (e.g., making arrangements for daycare, taking the child to school and social activities, etc.).

Even if the other parent has liberal time with the child and "joint physical custody," the parent who has more time is considered the custodial parent.

Child Support Eligibility in 50-50 Shared Custody Situations

Fully shared, 50-50 custody is somewhat rare but it does happen.

In joint custody situations where the child spends equal time living with each parent, both parents may both be considered custodial parents. Neither parent may be ordered to pay the other, especially if incomes are similar. Or one parent may be required to pay child support to the other if there is a large disparity in parental income.

Determining Child Support Eligibility: Additional Considerations

A custodial parent is not guaranteed to receive child support. A number of practical issues may need to be addressed first:

  • The ability of the court to secure payment of child support. Does the custodial parent know the whereabouts of the other parent? Do they have a home address and the name of an employer? A custodial parent may be entitled to free assistance locating the other birthparent from their state's child support services agency.
  • Is paternity legally established? If the parents were unmarried, a DNA paternity test may be required.
  • Has the custodial parent received a child support order in family court? Until the parent has such an order, their state child support agency cannot help them enforce the order.

Once a child support order is issued, the state's child support services agency can provide parent location assistance, child support collections, or child support enforcement services. Nonpayment of child support can result in serious sanctions, including paycheck garnishment and loss of professional licenses.

Learn More About Your Child Support Eligibility. Talk to an Attorney

Child support can help ensure that your child receives the care they need. If you need help determining your eligibility for child support, you may want to speak with a local family law attorney experienced in handling these types of cases.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified child support attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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