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Child Support Laws


By federal statute, each state is required to base child support decisions on a set of consistent child support guidelines; however, states have authority to create child support guidelines, and divorce laws in your state vary greatly from others.

After divorce in some states, child support is based on a specific percentage of the noncustodial parent's income and doesn't consider the custodial parent's income except in special circumstances. Other states base child support calculations on a formula combining the income of both parents to determine how much overall support the child would be receiving if the parents stayed married. The amount is then allocated according to the relative income of the parties.

Other factors may play into some child support calculations. If one or both spouses have children from previous relationships, that may factor into the equation because those children are also entitled to child support. In many states birth order may be a factor in the way additional children are treated in child support calculations.

Where one parent regularly exercises child visitation rights or there is joint child custody, child support may be decreased to allow that parent to provide directly for the needs of the child during the time that he or she has visitation or custody.

Child Support Enforcement

Child support enforcement options also differ somewhat from state to state. In most states, a child support order can be enforced by a contempt action. The advantage of a contempt petition, sometimes called a Rule to Show Cause, is that judges have broad authority in enforcing court orders.

Unpaid child support may result not only in monetary penalties but in jail time. The threat of spending time in jail can provide a powerful incentive to keep child support payments current. Many courts automatically enter wage garnishment orders when child support orders are entered, and in some jurisdictions the garnishment order is mandatory.

Every state also has a child support enforcement agency. Private divorce attorneys are often able to move child support enforcement cases through the divorce court more quickly and take action to discover assets and income of non-custodial parents. The child support enforcement agency backlog varies from state to state, and the agencies are able to provide services to people who might not be able to afford the services of a private divorce attorney to pursue child support enforcement.

Connect with a Divorce Lawyer about Child Support Laws

Learn how child support laws in your state will affect you and your child by speaking to a local divorce lawyer. Call 877-349-1310 or fill out our divorce case review form to set up a preliminary consultation. Work on protecting your child and his or her financial future by talking to a divorce attorney near you today.

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The above summary of child support law is by no means all-inclusive and is not intended to serve as legal advice. Laws may have changed since our last update. For the latest information on child support laws, speak to a local divorce lawyer in your state.

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