Child support is mandatory in any divorce involving minor children. Petitioners with minor children must include an order for child support, even if the other parent is unemployed or cannot be found.
Most state laws have guidelines to determine child support payments. The payment amount is based on each parent's income and the amount of time he or she spends with the children. The guidelines also provide for add-on amounts for the following expenses:
Health care and health insurance
Special educational or other needs
Parents can increase or decrease the guideline amount if the following conditions are met:
Both parents acknowledge they are fully informed of their rights under state law and the amount of child support is mutually agreed on,
Both parents declare the agreed upon amount is in the children's best interests and will adequately meet their needs, and
For welfare recipients, the right to support has not been assigned to the county, and neither parent has a public assistance application pending.
Keep in mind that the judges presiding over divorces are the ultimate authority on child support decisions. They can deviate from the guidelines as they see fit.
Child support orders can be modified at any time. Special circumstances or income changes are just two reasons to revisit child support payments. The parties can agree in writing to the changed amount or can file a motion with the court. After the divorce is finalized, you should consult an attorney to change the amount.
Any order for child support payments typically includes an order for the assignment of wages. Child support payments usually begin when the judgment dissolving the marriage will be signed by the court, even though the parties will not legally be divorced until after the waiting period. If the judgment is delayed, you can file an application with the court to rush the payment of child support. You should seek an attorney if this is the case.
If a parent does not pay child support or is significantly late, he or she can be sued for contempt of court, have wages or tax refunds attached, or have his or her driver's license blocked. These actions should be handled by an experienced attorney.