When Are You Required to Pay Child Support?

This is, understandably, a prickly topic but it is a necessary question for the parties involved.

In the vast majority of child support issues, it is the mother who is the custodial parent, and it is the father of the child– the non-custodial parent– who pays child support.

So, it’s usually the case of the father asking, “when am I required to pay child support?” that gets the conversation going about how the child support system works and what a father needs to know about his parental obligations.

Parents Must Support Their Children

Having children is a responsibility– there’s no way around it. If you are a parent, you have an obligation to financially support your child (or children). Both parents don’t have to be married, nor do they have to be living together.

Issues of child support come out during divorce proceedings. One parent gets to have physical custody of the children; that parent’s responsibility is fulfilled by being the custodial parent.

The other parent then has the responsibility of making child support payments, and that fulfills their obligations as the non-custodial parent.

How Much Am I Obligated to Pay via Child Support?

The courts will consider a number of factors when figuring out how much a non-custodial parent will be shelling out for child support.

Guidelines and details will vary from state to state in the U.S., as each state has discretion in determining a fair amount that will go towards child support. Items that are normally taken into account for consideration will include:

  • Each parent’s income and expenses
  • The standard of living of the child prior to divorce
  • The child’s specific needs
  • The custodial parent’s resources
  • The non-custodial parent’s ability to fulfill child support obligations

The judges of each state ultimately decide on the amount the non-custodial parent must pay for child support. It is in the non-custodial parent’s best interest to be forthcoming with information so the court can make a fair determination as possible.

If, down the road, any parent thinks the child support payments need to be somehow modified– whether due to unemployment, needs (of the child) that had not been anticipated previously, and so on– the court will also need to make their own determination on these changes.

How Long Does Child Support Last?

The quick answer is child support payments go on until your child is no longer a minor. The only exception is when your child has special needs– in which case, child support continues.

In addition, according to the law, child support obligations may be fulfilled when any of these conditions apply:

  • Your child joins the military and is now on active duty
  • Your child has been adopted; in which case your parental rights have now been terminated
  • Your parental rights have been terminated through another legal process
  • Your child has been declared “emancipated” by a court, i.e. even though your child is a minor, he/she is now considered to be an adult because of the ability to be self-supporting.



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