Are You Eligible for Child Support?
As a parent, you may be wondering whether you are entitled to receive child support payments from your child's other parent. The following article outlines a few initial considerations you may encounter regarding parents' rights to receive child support payments.
Are You the "Custodial" Parent of a Child?
In order for a parent to get child support, he or she must usually be the "custodial" parent of a child. A "custodial" parent is one who has primary physical custody of a child. This generally means that the child (or children) lives primarily with the custodial parent, and this parent is chiefly responsible for day-to-day care of the child (e.g. making arrangements for day care, ensuring the child is well-fed, taking the child to various social acitivities, etc.).
The "custodial" parent can be designated by a court after a divorce and child custody dispute, or can be assumed naturally in single-parent households where only one parent is raising the child (while the other parent has made no effort toward seeking custody).
Child Support in Joint Custody Situations
In joint custody cases in which a child spends equal time living with both parents, they may both be considered "custodial" parents. However, one parent may still be required to pay child support to the other. This is especially likely if there is a large disparity in the parents' incomes. For example, if a husband and wife get a divorce and agree to share joint physical custody of their son, the husband would likely be entitled to receive child support from the mother if he was a stay-at-home father during the marriage, while she earned a six-figure salary. Without receiving such financial support, the father would probably not be able to pay the day-to-day expenses required to properly provide care for the child, even on a half-time basis.
Being the custodial parent of a child will not in itself guarantee that you will receive child support. A number of other legal and practical issues must be considered. These include:
- Do you know the whereabouts/location (i.e. address, employer, and other contact information, etc.) of the other parent? If you do not know this basic information, you may be entitled to free assistance with locating the other parent, through your state's child support services agency, listed here.
- Have you established legal fatherhood (paternity) if this issue is in question?
- Have you gone to family court, or to the local branch of your state's child support services agency, to get a child support order? In most states, once a child support order is issued, the state's child support services/enforcement agency can provide parent location, support collection, or support enforcement services.
Requesting and receiving child support payments can be complicated, and oftentimes very confusing. To learn more about the process in general, check out FindLaw's section on child support. In addition, if you find yourself in need of legal assistance or advice, consider consulting a family law attorney with experience handling child support cases.