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Child Support And Divorce

Divorce cases are often contentious, with the most litigated and contentious disputes for child custody, visitation and child support. While most other issues in a divorce case are resolved once and for all by the judge at the end of the divorce case, child custody and support issues can be revisited until the minor children reach the age of 18 and sometimes until they finish college.

Each state has its own set of guidelines on how child support is calculated, and its own enforcement mechanism for delinquent child support. For this reason, it is important to talk with a family lawyer or divorce lawyer about the local guidelines.

How Child Support Is Calculated
Often child support is independent of other issues in a divorce case.  Issues of misconduct, dissipation of assets, and other lifestyle details may impact (to varying degrees in each state) custody determinations, division of property, and even alimony. Child support is generally fixed by a formula established by state law or court rules and has only limited flexibility. Speak with a divorce attorney or family lawyer to learn how to best represent yourself and get the benefit of the formula.

The child support guidelines have been established by each state in an effort to create a uniform system that accounts for the needs of the child, the ability of the non-custodial parent to support him or herself, the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the parents not divorced, provision for additional children of the parties, and other factors.

Every state calculates child support differently. Some states rely only on the non-custodial parent's income. Some combine the income of both parents to create a more complex child support formula. Many states account for additional factors, such as additional children of the marriage, parents outside of the marriage having responsibility, etc. when calculating child support. If you are unsure of your state's policies, talk with a divorce attorney or family lawyer.

Penalties For The Refusal To Pay Child Support
In most states, child support orders are subject to automatic garnishment, so that as long as the non-custodial parent remains in the same job, non-payment does not become an issue. However, there are a number of reasons that a garnishment order might not be in effect. For instance, a couple may have divorced before garnishment orders were automatically entered and never have had an order entered, or may have divorced in a jurisdiction that makes garnishment discretionary. The paying spouse may have changed jobs or become unemployed. In those cases, the custodial parent typically has private recourse or can opt to ask a governmental agency to pursue delinquent child support on her behalf.
Failure to pay child support can result in jail time. A non-paying parent can be sentenced to jail for contempt of court, because failure to pay child support is in violation of the divorce decree or temporary support order. In many states, a seriously delinquent parent may also be charged with criminal non-support of a dependent.
Governmental agencies charged with child support enforcement have a variety of other enforcement tools at their disposal, including:
  • The suspension of the non-paying parent's driver's license
  • The revocation of any professional licenses the non-paying parent may hold, such as a medical license or license to practice law
  • Seizure of income tax refunds

If child support has been unpaid, contact a Family Lawyer in your area immediately to help get the money you and your child deserve!
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