Do You Have to Pay Child Support If You Didn't Know the Child Existed?

The law requires both parents to contribute to the upbringing of their child. In most situations, the non-custodial parent pays child support to the parent with custody to meet the child's financial needs.

The article below summarizes who should pay for child support, income considerations, and other relevant issues regarding child support obligations.

Do I Have to Pay for Child Support If I Didn't Know the Child Was Mine?

Probably. If paternity is legally established, then you are obligated to support your child.

The court, depending on the state, may also order you to pay child support retroactively. In Texas, for instance, the judge may order you to pay retroactive child support if the other parent sought child support after the day of separation. Therefore, you should look into the laws of your state to learn what applies to you.

Who Is Eligible to Receive Child Support?

Generally, a custodial parent is eligible to receive child support. "Custodial parent" simply means the parent who has physical custody of the child. However, there may be instances where a parent is eligible to receive child support even though both parents have custody ("joint custody"). This usually happens when there is a great disparity of income between the parents.

What Steps Should I Take to Get Child Support?

The first thing you need to do is establish paternity, if paternity is an issue. You also need to know the whereabouts of the other parent. A child support service agency may assist you in locating the other parent if you don't have enough financial resources.

You must also get a child support order either form family court or a child support service agency located in your area.

How Much Child Support Will I Actually Pay/Get?

Factors a court will consider when determining how much child support you need to pay or will receive include your income, the needs of the child, and general living expenses. But the specific laws and guidelines vary among the states.

Judges use online child support calculators to get an estimate of what parents should pay for child support. However, the judges may take additional factors into consideration when they make their final determination.

Additional Resources

Have Any Concerns About Your Child Support Needs? An Attorney Can Help

Child support is essential to ensure both parents are responsible for the well-being of their child. If you are unaware of your child support obligations, want to know how to get child support, or have questions about the process, contact a child support attorney to get help.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Some states allow you to set up child support with forms and court processes
  • You may need legal help to set up or modify child support arrangements
  • If there is conflict, an attorney can advise if the other parent’s actions are legal 

Get tailored advice about paying or receiving child support. Many attorneys offer free consultations.

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Don't Forget About Estate Planning

Once new child support arrangements are in place, it’s an ideal time to create or change your estate planning forms. Take the time to add new beneficiaries to your will and name a guardian for any minor children. Consider creating a financial power of attorney so your agent can pay bills and make sure your children are provided for. A health care directive explains your health care decisions and takes the decision-making burden off your children when they become adults.

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