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The National Center for Health Statistics reports that around 41 percent of all first marriages end in divorce. The percentage rises to 60 percent for second marriages and to an astounding 73 percent for third. Because divorce is so prevalent, child support issues are commonplace and are sometimes a matter of contention between separating parents.
What is child support?
Child support is the terminology used to describe the periodic or ongoing financial payments made by one parent to the other to benefit the child following the termination of a marriage. If parents have joint custody, the parent with the higher income will typically be required to pay child support to the other parent. Child support laws are based on the belief that both parents should be financially responsible for the support of their child even if the child does not reside with both parents.
How long does child support have to be paid?
Most courts require parents pay child support until the child has reached adulthood, becomes active in the military or until the court declares the child emancipated. In some cases, child support payments are required past childhood. However, these cases usually involve special needs children.
Child support can be terminated when:
Courts can legally terminate financial responsibilities if both parents agree there is no need to financially support the child. Financial obligations are also revoked if the child is adopted and the parent gives us their parental rights.
How is child support determined?
Child support is usually arranged during the dissolution of marriage, an annulment, a marital separation or a divorce. In most cases, the non-custodial parent pays child support. Each state has its own guidelines regarding the amount of child support that should be paid. A judge typically determines the final amount. Child support is most often discussed when child custody is being determined.
What happens when parents have joint custody?
When parents have joint custody of a child, determining who pays what in regards to child support can become complicated. Two factors are considered when setting up child support when parents have joint custody:
- The percentage of income the parent contributed: This is in regards to the amount that each parent contributed to the couple’s joint income before they became separated. When one parent has contributed a higher percentage, they will likely pay more towards child support.
- Which parent has more time with the child: Another factor in determining who pays child support in a joint custody situation is who physically has the child more often. When a child resides with one parent more than the other, the other parent will usually be required to pay child support to help with the financial burdens associated with caring for a child.
How are child support payment amounts determined?
There are many factors that go into determining the proper amount for child support in each case. However, the following are factors that are always considered when determining child support amounts:
- The parent’s government retirement or private retirement benefits.
- The parent’s pensions.
- The parent’s veteran’s benefits.
- The parent’s wages or self-employement earnings including bonuses and tips.
- Any workers’ compensation, social security benefits or disability payments a parent may receive.
Additional factors that can affect child support allocation:
- The income of the parent who is paying child support:
The more a parent earns, the more he or she is required to pay in child support. Moreover, courts recognize financial hardships and understand the parent’s need to provide for their own needs in addition to helping support a child.
- Quality of life experienced:
The court will examine the living conditions the child was used to before the marriage was dissolved. If the standard of living was high, the court will require the parent responsible for child support help maintain that standard of living. This is required to prevent the child from experiencing a vast shift in their standard of living and to keep their life more normal.
- The expenses associated with raising a child:
The court determines how expensive it is to raise a child in the particular city or state in which the child resides. In some cities, the cost of living is substantially more than in others, so this is in important factor to consider when determining child support amounts.
- Specific needs of the child:
When a child has special needs because they are either mentally or physically disabled, a judge takes this fact into consideration when setting child support amounts.
- The financial resources and income of the custodial parent:
A judge also determines the financial resources of the parent who has custody of the child when determining child support amounts. When the custodial parent has a good income and a high personal net worth, the non-custodial parent will not have to pay as much child support as they otherwise would have.
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