By law, a non-custodial parent must pay a monthly allowance called child support to help cover childcare expenses incurred by the custodial parent. Agreements for child support may be negotiated out of court or a court may issue an order for child support. Assistance from a lawyer for child support cases can make either process less confusing and stressful for both parents.
The custodial parent is the parent with primary physical custody of the child. This parent has primary responsibility for the daily care of a child who lives with him or her the majority of the time. If parents have joint custody, both are considered custodial parents but one may have to pay child support, particularly if the income gap between the two is wide. When determining whether a parent is entitled to child support, practical and legal issues are also considered.
Each state uses a unique formula to calculate child support but all states consider several common factors. Financial needs of the child, income of the custodial parent and parent designated to pay child support, needs of the custodial parent, and ability of the other parent to pay child support are several criteria that are commonly evaluated. The standard of living of the child prior to divorce or separation may also be considered.
If a parent believes that the amount of child support is not correct, a modification request can be made. Even if both parents agree to the adjustment, a judge must approve it. If the other parent does not agree to the change, a court hearing may be requested. Courts typically do not agree to raise or lower child support unless the requesting party can prove that a change in circumstances occurred.
Temporary child support modifications may also be made. These may occur if the child experiences a medical emergency, the parent receiving the support payments is going through temporary hardship, or the paying parent is temporarily unable to make payments due to situations like illness or loss of a job. Cost of living increases may also be built into child support orders or agreements.
During child support negotiation, parents are typically required to document their financial situation, including monthly expenses and income. They should be aware of their child support rights so they do not receive or pay more or less than necessary. A lawyer for child support can inform parents of their rights and assist in child support negotiations.