Child Support

After child custody and visitation rights, one of the most important issues to be decided in a divorce case involving dependent children is provision of child support.  Ensuring that the children of a divorce are properly cared for is a serious matter, and provision of child support is a legal obligation.  Failing to meet legal obligations for child support can result in criminal penalties up to and including imprisonment.  Determining who should pay and how much child support takes into account many factors.

Who Should Pay How Much?

The first thing to be decided is which parent will be the custodial parent, that is, have basic custody of the minor children.  Once this is decided, the next thing that must be considered is visitation; where will visitation be conducted, and for how much time will the children be residing with the non-custodial parent?  These two factors, combined with the net income of both parents are a major  element in determining child support amounts.

The non-custodial parent will be responsible for making child support payments to the custodial parent, in an appropriate amount according to the number of children, amount of time spent with each parent, income and a number of other determining factors.  The family law judge will use some basic calculations provided by law to make a determination of the amount to be paid.  A child support guideline calculator may be found at the website of the California Department of Child Support Services for anyone seeking to get an idea of likely child support payment amounts.

Payment of Child Support

Court-determined child support payments are to be made on a monthly basis.  Divorced parents who fail to make court-ordered child support payments may be subject to wage garnishment, punitive actions such as passport denial and/or driver’s license suspension, as well as suspension or denial of hunting and fishing licenses and any other licenses provided by the state.

The state may also intercept tax returns, investigate any benefits that the non-custodial parent is receiving, to include lottery winnings and any other sources of income that the parent may be attempting to conceal.  Finally, a parent who refuses to pay court-ordered child support may be fined and/or incarcerated if necessary in order to force payment of child support.

Children’s Rights

Often in the heat of a bitterly contested divorce, couples may forget that there is more at stake than just their own emotions and livelihoods.  No matter their feelings about the divorce or their ex-spouse, both parents should remember that child support payments are the right of the child; they are neither a punishment nor a trophy to be endured or won by either spouse.

Child support payments should be fairly determined, promptly paid and dutifully put towards the welfare of the child.  Custodial spouses who do not seek child support payments or do not report non-payment of child support do their children a disservice.  Non-custodial parents who fail to make child support payments do their community a disservice, especially when the custodial parent is forced to rely on food stamps and financial aid.
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