Parent’s Obligation to Support Child
A parent has a legal obligation to support his or her child. The child has a right to benefit from a parent’s income and assets. For these reasons, if petitioned, a court will usually make a child support award requiring the parent with greater income and/or assets to make monthly payments to the parent with less income and/or assets. A child is entitled to support payments until the child reaches the age of 18 years.
Initiating Child Support
Once the court makes a child support award it will order those payments made from the date the petition was first filed, so if you wish to obtain child support, it is imperative to file the Request for Order for Child Support as soon as possible.
Calculating Child Support
Income and Assets of the Parents to be Included
The court uses a complex formula to calculate child support. Some of the factors that the formula takes into account are the parents’ incomes and their expenses. The court can also take into consideration a parent’s assets, bonuses, inheritance, deferred income, and capital gains. Having an attorney review your specific circumstances (and those of the other parent) will make sure that your financial picture is properly portrayed to the court before it makes its calculation.
Imputing Income: A Parent’s Failure to Work or Work to his/her Full Potential
In calculating child support, the court can also look at whether or not a parent is working or earning his/her maximum potential income. In some cases, the court can impute (assign) income to a non-working/or underworking parent, and this will affect the calculation.
Physical Custody and Child Support
The court’s calculation takes into account the amount of time each parent has physical custody of the child. The more custody one has, the less support he/she has to pay. The less custody on has, the more he/she will have to pay. For this reason, a parent may try to maximize the time he/she has with the child—in order to reduce child support payments. In short, the court’s formula will take into consideration the disparity in income between the two parties balanced with the amount of physical custody each parent has, and this will determine the child support payment. Other factors such as one parent’s substantial assets or one parent’s failure to work to his/her potential may be considered.
Computer Programs Used for Calculating Child Support
To establish the actual amount of the support award, the court will use a computer program, usually either DissoMaster or SupportTax. Like any income tax program, these support calculation programs are complex and foreign to a lay person. Having an attorney prepare your report and review the other parent’s report will ensure that income and assets are properly included and that your position is best represented.
A Parent Cannot Waive Child Support
A child has a right to be supported and a right to benefit from his parents’ income and assets. For this reason, child support cannot be waived by the parents in a dissolution. A parent may waive spousal support, but in any dissolution the parents must make a calculation for child support.
Temporary Child Support
In a dissolution (divorce) the court may order pendente lite (temporary) child support which will be payable during the dissolution. Any pendente lite award will be awarded retroactively back to the date the Request for Order for Child Support was filed. So again, if you are seeking child support, the sooner you make this request, the more funds you will receive.
Ensuring that Child Support is Paid
Once a child support order is in place, there are various mechanisms for making the sure the parent required to pay does so. The easiest way to obtain payment is to request that the county make the deduction automatically from the parent’s paycheck. If this does not work, there are other steps, including placing a lien on bank accounts.
Value of an Attorney Representing you in Child Support Matters
Because a child support award will require the parent to make a monthly payment until the child reaches 18 years of age, child support payments over time will always involve a substantial amount of money relative to the parent’s income. For this reason, it is essential that you have competent representation in presenting your financial situation and expenses to the court. This is especially true if the other parent has legal counsel but you do not. At Allingham & Cuerva, we can provide this counsel and fight for your interests.