A lawyer can be a valuable resource for parents trying to exercise their child support rights. By law, non-custodial parents must pay child support each month. An attorney prevents a non-custodial parent from being taken advantage of financially and ensures that a custodial parent receives a sufficient amount of financial support. If payments fall behind or an adjustment is necessary, an attorney helps to resolve the issue.
There are several ways to get child support and a lawyer can be helpful in each situation. Parents may choose to negotiate informally through their attorneys or an out-of-court proceeding called alternative dispute resolution (ADR) may be used. If neither of these options is feasible, a court will hear the case and issue a child support order dictating the payment amount and terms.
If parents can work together to iron out child support issues, they can save money by doing this out of court with or without assistance from an attorney. Parents can negotiate directly with each other or through their lawyers. After the arrangement is finalized, it is put in writing. ADR is another option that is typically more casual and less contentious than going to court. Parents and their attorneys engage in collaborative family law and mediation to come to an agreement regarding child support, which is then put in writing.
A judge must review and approve the written agreement. In some states, this document becomes a decree or binding order that the parents must adhere to or suffer legal consequences. If the non-custodial parent falls behind with payments, the custodial parent may petition the court for back child support payments, subjecting the other party to fines and jail time.
When a court decides on child support, it issues a child support order that both parents must adhere to or face penalties. Once this order or the alternative agreement drafted out of court is in place, it may still be possible to lower or raise child support payments. Change in income of the non-custodial parent or increased education or healthcare expenses for the child is a common reason for adjusting the payment.
Custodial parents seeking child support should consult with a lawyer to learn more about their child support rights. Non-custodial parents may also receive assistance from this type of attorney when attempting to lower child support. Whether the initial agreement is created in or out of court, a lawyer can provide the expertise needed to finalize the arrangement.