Do I Need a Lawyer for Child Support?
By Maddy Teka, Esq. | Legally reviewed by Bridget Molitor, J.D. | Last reviewed April 24, 2020
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The law does not require you to hire a lawyer to handle your child support case but it would be a good idea to do so in some situations. This is especially true if you are in the midst of a divorce or child custody dispute and you and your spouse do not agree on the terms of custody or support.
In situations where there are disagreements between couples, a judge will often need to intervene and rule on those issues. Having a lawyer help you may be a good option to ensure you get the best outcome.
What Does a Child Support Lawyer Do?
A family law attorney will help you with your case by assisting you in various matters such as:
- Explaining the legal issues and what you should expect at every stage
- Evaluating your case and giving you proper legal advice on how you should proceed
- Calculating the anticipated child support payments
- Representing you at the court hearing to protect your rights
- Negotiating on your behalf
Why Do I Need a Child Support Attorney?
Hiring a local attorney may seem like an unnecessary expense. But the cost is usually worth it when it comes to child support cases considering the amount of time and effort it will save you, especially if the case is already in court.
Here are some reasons why you would want to hire a child support attorney:
- If you have a complicated case, a lawyer may be necessary: If your ex, for instance, does not agree with the amount of child support, custody arrangement, or the terms of a divorce, then a lawyer would be best suited to convince the judge to rule your way.
- The other parent may have a lawyer: If your ex has a lawyer, they have someone working with them who understands the courts, knows the process, and might even know the judges and their individual preferences. You don't want to put yourself in a position where you are struggling to learn the process while your ex's attorney provides all the right information to support their side of the case.
- A lawyer will help with calculating the amount of child support: A lawyer knows exactly what information the judge uses to calculate child support. Having a lawyer on your side will help you provide accurate information so you can ensure the child support order is the right amount needed to properly care for your child.
- A lawyer may also help with your child custody case: Issues of child custody, in many cases, come hand-in-hand with child support cases. As your custody arrangements will directly affect your relationship with your children, it may be the best option to hire a lawyer.
- Modification of child support is easier with a lawyer: If you want to modify an existing child support order, you will need to show a substantial change in circumstances. An attorney can give you an overview of what a"substantial change" constitutes of. They could also help you provide the right documentation to help the judge understand your modification request.
Issues to Consider for Your Child Support Case
You should consider the following before you decide to hire a lawyer:
- Has the paternity of the father been proven?
- Is there a custody case pending before the court?
- Can you and your previous partner agree on the terms of the child support?
- After the court order, do you have a way to enforce child support?
- Will the child support obligations end soon?
- Will the child support affect your finances? Your tax return?
- What is the amount of child support you expect to get?
How Much Does a Child Support Attorney Cost?
A child support attorney may charge you a flat fee, or they may charge you on an hourly basis. Some attorneys may also ask for a retainer fee for their services.
The amount of money you have to pay will depend on the experience of the attorney and how complicated your case is. Note that there are also additional fees you must pay. These fees are payments associated with your case, including court fees.
More Information About Child Support
What Is Child Support?
Child support is simply the money one parent pays to the custodial parent (the parent who has physical custody of the child) for the child's care. The judge sets the child support payment amount at the child support hearing. The co-parents can also agree to the amount in a custody agreement. This money is usually paid monthly.
Child support covers the basic needs of the child, including:
- Child care
- Health insurance and medical care
- Education expenses
- Extracurricular activities
Once child support is ordered, a parent may apply for a modification of child support if situations change, such as when a parent loses a job.
Who Pays Child Support?
Both parents are required to contribute to child support. If the paternity of the father is not established, then the court may order a paternity test. In most cases, the parent who does not have physical custody will end up paying child support.
The child support amount a co-parent has to pay is calculated using the child support guidelines. The guideline looks at different factors, including the financial status of the parents and the financial needs of the child. FindLaw's child support page has ample resources on how child support is calculated.
Speak to an Attorney About Your Child Support Case
Disputes regarding child support can be very stressful and complex. Speaking to a child support attorney may help you understand the laws regarding child support in your state and provide you with the best solution.
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.
Contact a qualified child support attorney to make sure your rights are protected.