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What Is Child Support Law?

Child Support Legal Issues

When one parent has custody of a child, both parents still have the responsibility to provide for their child. Courts often require the non-custodial parent, or the parent with whom the child does not live for the majority of the time, to pay child support.

Child support most often arises during divorce proceedings, but can also occur with unmarried couples. The judge or the parents often decide on the amount of child support to be paid as part of the divorce settlement or order. In some states, there is a formula used to determine child support amounts. When child support negotiations become contentious, many parents find that they need a lawyer to effectively advocate for their rights and the rights of their child.

Child support can be a particularly confusing issue because of the many factors that come into play when determining the proper amount. The factors include the needs of the child, each parent's respective income, and each parent's existing debts and obligations. When the non-custodial parent does not cooperate with a child support order, collecting child support may require additional court proceedings that may involve modifying the child support order or garnishing the noncompliant parent's income.

When parents live in different states, some laws may make these proceedings even more complicated by limiting the court locations where a parent can modify and enforce a child support order. Having a lawyer with the expertise to successfully argue for your side of a child support case is sometimes the only way to have your voice heard in court.

Terms to Know

  • Custodial Parent - The parent who has physical custody of a child; usually receives child support
  • Non-Custodial Parent - The parent who does not have physical custody of a child; usually will be required to pay child support
  • Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) - A uniform law passed by all 50 states that determines where and how custodial and non-custodial parents can modify and enforce child custody orders when they live in different states
  • Full Faith and Credit - A clause in the U.S. Constitution that requires states to recognize and enforce the court orders, including child support orders, of other states
  • Divorce - The dissolution of a valid marriage
  • Arrears - Overdue and unpaid child support payments

For more legal definitions, visit the FindLaw Legal Dictionary.

Other Considerations When Hiring a Child Support Lawyer

At times, garnishing a non-custodial parent's wages can be difficult. A wage garnishment only affects the non-custodial parent's "disposable earnings," meaning the money the parent earns beyond the funds needed for necessary living expenses. When one parent seeks to garnish another parent's wages, both sides may want to hire an attorney to ensure that the non-custodial parent's disposable earnings are calculated correctly and the garnishment does not take too much or too little money.

Parents embroiled in child support disputes often lose sight of what guides the goal of child support: to ensure that the best interests of the child are protected. Child support lawyers understand this goal, and divorce mediation attorneys keep this in mind when brokering a fair child support agreement.

If you are facing a child support issue, contact a child support lawyer immediately to protect your rights and explore your legal options.

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