Answers To Common Questions About Child Support

How is child support determined?

In most cases, a parent who obtains physical custody of the children will be given an award of child support to help pay expenses incurred in raising them. State guidelines provide a formula for calculating child support. The formula considers the income and other financial resources of the paying parent, how many children the parties have, and the number of children from other relationships that the paying spouse is obligated to support.

The court can set child support higher or lower than the guidelines after considering numerous factors such as the child’s age and specific needs, the amount of time the child lives with each parent, and the availability of other financial resources that can be used for the child’s benefit. The parties can also agree to a different amount, but the court will not approve child support below the guidelines if it will not adequately provide for the child.

Can a parent be required to pay child support after the child turns 18?

Child support usually lasts until the child turns 18 or graduates from high school. It can last longer in the case of a child who became disabled before the age of 18 or if the parties agreed to post-graduation expenses like college expenses for example.

Proving that a child is disabled requires testimony from doctors, teachers, and counselors along with medical and school records supporting the disability’s existence. The amount of support that has to be paid can include not only a monthly figure but also medical expenses and health insurance.

Can the court order a parent to pay for college expenses for children?

If a parent agrees in a divorce settlement agreement to pay college expenses, a court can enforce the agreement if the parent refuses to pay. However, if the parent did not agree to pay college expenses, the court likely cannot order it. This is because the court usually does not have the power or jurisdiction to order child support past the age of 18. 

What penalties can be imposed on a parent who does not pay court-ordered child support?

A parent who does not comply with a court order to pay child support can be held in contempt of court. The judge can fine the parent and even send the parent to jail. The judge can order that the funds be deducted from the parent’s wages. In addition, the parent’s property can be seized, tax refund intercepted, and driver’s license and professional licenses suspended. In some cases, the parent can even be prosecuted for a crime.  

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