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. Following are a few initial considerations 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, meaning that the child (or children) lives primarily with the custodial parent, and that parent is chiefly responsible for day-to-day care of the child. 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 cases where a child spends equal time living with both parents, they will both be considered "custodial" parents, but 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 to be able to pay the day-to-day expenses required to properly provide care for the child, even on a half-time basis.
Being a custodial parent of a child will not 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 of the other parent? (i.e. address, employer, and other contact information, etc.) 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.