Because the custodial parent bears the financial responsibility for the child, the secondary caregiver is typically required to pay child support, a fixed amount designed to help pay the various expenses associated with raising children. This requirement may be ordered even in cases where no visitation is awarded and does not stop if the custodial parent interferes with visitation rights.
Child support usually lasts until the child reaches the age of majority and it is not gender specific – a mother can be required to pay child support if the father has sole custody of the child.
Child support can also cease if the child enters active military duty, if the secondary caregiver terminates their rights as a parent or if the child has been emancipated by the courts, meaning he or she has been declared an adult.
If the child has special needs such as a mental or physical disability, child support may be required beyond the age of majority.
Unlike alimony, child support is not tax-deductible and the receiving parent does not have to pay taxes on the income. Why? Because child support is designed to replace the additional resources lost when the parents divorced. If you were still married, you wouldn’t be able to deduct the cost of little league uniforms or a new dress for the prom. As a parent it is your responsibility to provide financially for your child, whether he lives with you or not.
Child support is regulated by state law and by federal law, specifically the Child Support Enforcement Act of 1984. This act allows district attorneys to pursue and if necessary, incarcerate non-paying parents. The government actually has several tools at its disposal for child support enforcement.
The laws also allow tax returns, employment wages and property owned to be seized as payment for back child support. When dealing with a non-paying parent that has moved out-of-state, custodial parents can work through their local court system to enforce the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA). This act allows courts in different jurisdictions to work together to enforce a legal order of child support. If your court has personal jurisdiction over your spouse, it can issue an order that requires your spouse to appear and make payment. In the event your court does not have personal jurisdiction, it can forward the order to the state where the non-paying spouse resides and allow a court in that jurisdiction to handle the enforcement.
In addition to these laws, Congress also passed the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act in 1998 that makes the intentional refusal to pay out-of-state child support a felony crime.
In the event that a parent becomes unable to pay child support, a temporary modification should be sought from the court as quickly as possible. Events such as an illness, injury or loss of job are good examples of qualifying incidents that would entice a court to temporarily reduce or halt your responsibility to pay support. This modification is only good for future payments however, so you won’t get any relief for any back payments that are owed.