If you are recently separated or divorced, you might wonder, what is child support?
Many people are unfamiliar with what is child support, how it’s implemented, and how much money usually has to be paid. The truth is that there are a lot of myths out there about child support, so if you are in a position where you’ll soon be paying it, it’s a good idea to separate the myths from the truth.
What is child support?
Simply put, child support is money that one parent pays the other to help pay for the expenses associated with the raising of their children. While child support is usually paid by the non-custodial parent, this is not always the case. The amount paid and the things that the parent is required to pay for will vary not only from state to state, but also from one family to the next. In other words, no two sets of parents are alike with their child support arrangement.
It’s also good to know the definitions of some of the terms used in typical child custody arrangements. For one thing, a custodial parent is normally the one who has primary custody and who takes care of the child most of the time.
Non-custodial parents do not have physical custody of the child, but they might still have some type of legal custody. Sometimes, it’s difficult to define who the non-custodial parent is, especially if the child lives with each parent half the time.
Regarding how much child support the non-custodial parent is required to pay, the amount is based on both parents’ income and its purpose is for both parents to be equally responsible for the amount of money needed to raise the child. Since it can be a little confusing, it’s a good idea to meet with a lawyer and have some type of legal arrangement drawn up so that it’s clear for both partners what will be expected of them.
Who determines the amount?
The state usually determines the amount of child support needed, which is usually calculated based on some type of chart. In many cases, the parent paying the child support has the money automatically taken out of their paycheck. A lot of people don’t realize this, but child support is not to be used for anything that the custodial parent needs or wants. The money is specifically there to make sure that the child’s basic needs are met.
The main reasons to receive child support include payment of:
- Shelter, meaning rent or house note and the utility bills
- Any medical expenses, including doctor visits, medications, and hospitalizations
- Expenses related to school, such as tuition, books, uniforms, and supplies
- Expenses associated with extracurricular activities, including sports activities, summer camps, and more
- Other basics, such as food, clothing, books, toys, etc.
In other words, if you ask yourself, what is child support, the answer is simple: to keep the children safe, secure, and with their basic needs met.
It is sometimes confusing
It can be a bit fuzzy when trying to determine what the money is supposed to be used for, but this is why child support agreements are spelled out in detail, are always in writing, and why each parent always has a copy of the agreement. If the custodial parent uses the child support money for entertainment, salon services, or even clothing and vacations that don’t involve the child, they could potentially get into some legal trouble.
In addition to automatic withdrawals from their paycheck, the non-custodial parent usually has the option to pay their money online through a state website or through the mail. Regardless of how child support is paid, the state expects the non-custodial parent to pay the required amount decided upon by the courts, and to pay that money on time every month. Trying to determine, what is child support really for, is easy for both parents if they consult with their lawyer for clarification.
As can be expected, the issue of child support sometimes brings up other issues, such as what the laws are when the parents were never married, if legal paternity needs to be established first, and what to do if the parents each live in a different state. Indeed, there are many “what if’s” involved when a child support agreement is being written up, but parents also have a lot of resources available to them when they need answers.
Seek legal advice
In the end, what is child support? We now know that it is a legal agreement for one parent to pay the other parent so that both are equally responsible for paying for the child’s various expenses. Child support is not to be used for frivolous items but only for things that are necessary to make sure that the child always has food, shelter, and other basic needs met. It may sound confusing, and we encourage you to contact us today to help you with your child support case.