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Confused About Child Support? Read This.

Welcome back to segment 3 of Mama’s Boy ongoing single parent Q & A. Today, Celeste Liversidge, Family Law Attorney and author of Last One Down the Aisle Wins: Ten Keys to a Fabulous Single Life Now & Even Better Marriage Later, answers key questions about child support. Read on…

MB: Can a parent who doesn’t want to pay child support or have any relationship with the child legally terminate their parental rights?

CL: The law does vary from state-to-state, but as a general rule, no, courts are unwilling to terminate parental rights unless there is a judicial finding that the parent is unfit, or in the event of an adoption. Courts are understandably reluctant to relieve a parent of his or her responsibility to raise the child and pay for the child's expenses, as it puts all of the responsibility solely on one parent, when it took 2 parents to conceive the child.  

MB: What is the first step to filing for child support?

CL: Every county in the country has a child support enforcement bureau whose sole job is to help people obtain and enforce child support orders at no cost to them, or a minor fee. The first step is to open a case with that office. The other option is to seek assistance of a family law attorney who can file a request for child support on your behalf. If you are unsure where to go or who to call just refer to…google. Example: Lee county (in FL), Genesee County (MI) and Union County (NJ) + Child Support Enforcement. This will take you straight to the right office. 

Owe $2500 in child support? NO passport for you.

MB: How is child support calculated when two parents were never married?

CL:  Every state has their own statewide guidelines, which are crafted by the lawmakers and jurisdiction is held where the child resides. If dad lives in NYC and mom + child live in Florida—the Florida law applies. The main factors that are generally considered are 1) the parties' incomes  2) the amount of time each party spends with the child 3) extra expenses like work-related day care, school tuition, summer camp fees and health insurance (+ other medical expenses) for the child.

Won't pay child support? Won't drive either, then.

MB: Can child support be modified to increase or decrease the payment?

CL: Yes. The custodial or non-custodial parent needs to file a motion with the court to revise the child support according to new income. It is advisable to have a clause in your agreement that requires the parties to exchange tax returns each year. If not, once the motion for increased or decreased support is filed, financial information must be disclosed.

Read Single Parent Q & A #1 and #2

MB: Tax returns and pay stubs are required from both parents to calculate child support, but what if the custodial parent has a hunch the parent paying child support has other cash income coming in, or a second/new job he or she is not reporting?

CL: Not only is it OK to do your own investigation, it's dumb not to. The payor can get in big trouble (perjury) for not disclosing his or her full income and thereby lying to the court. The person receiving child support has every right to know the full story when it comes to the payor's income, because their child is entitled to it. Apart from hiring a forensic accountant, it is perfectly fine to cold call or email an employer, or the HR department to confirm employment. You have a right to all pertinent info related to the payor's income.

Have a legal question for Celeste?  Email

You might also like Single Parenting Advice and Single Parenting Advice: A Primer for Solo Moms and Dads

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