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Getting Child Support

The subject of child support is an important (and often difficult) issue for many parents. What is a fair amount to pay? Who determines the child support payment? It can be a difficult endeavor for both parties. Parents with primary custody of a child, referred to as "custodial parents," often are eligible to receive child support payments from the child's other parent. The following articles cover eligibility, determining the amount of child support, the difference between support by agreement and support by court order, changes to child support and other issues of importance to those seeking child support. 

Child Support and Uninsured Medical Expenses

Child support may be used to pay for uninsured or "extraordinary" medical expenses. "Extraordinary" medical expenses may include any out-of-pocket medical costs that exceed the cost of a basic health care insurance plan, including co-pays, deductibles, and surgery costs. In many circumstances, child support may be used to cover these and other expenses, such as dental braces, casts, eyeglasses, and other special health care costs (especially if a child has pre-existing special medical needs). Most states require both parents to split the cost of additional medical care (depending on their state's guidelines). Cosmetic issues are rarely covered unless they present a health risk.

Function of Child Support Orders

Once a child support order is entered by a court, the order becomes an enforceable legal document which, among other things identifies the parties to the order (who pays support; who receives support); establishes the amount of child support to be paid (including frequency of payment); sets the procedure for payment(i.e. paycheck deductions, direct payment, or other options); and authorizes penalties for violation (i.e. wage garnishment, imposition of fines).

Changes to Child Support Orders

There are many circumstances that would allow you to ask for an early review to modify existing child support orders, including (to name a few): unemployment or a layoff from work for 30 days or longer, a permanent disability, a significant decrease or increase in income, incarceration or institutionalization for the duration of the child's minority with no income or assets available to pay child support, active military duty, and an increase or decrease in the cost of child care or health insurance. Simply put, child support can be increased if there is a change in circumstances justifying the increase, such as an increase in the payer's income, a decrease in the custodial parent's income, an increase in the child's needs, or an increase of the cost of living. Similarly, the amount can be reduced if circumstances justify the reduction.

Procedure for Ending Child Support

Child support payments do not end automatically. The person who is obligated to make child support payments must request for their child support obligation to end once the child reaches the age of majority or a minor child becomes emancipated. To find out whether your obligation to pay child support is ending, you can contact the child support agency in your state for assistance in determining your child support end date, or speak with an attorney to discuss your specific rights and responsibilities.

Hiring a Child Support Attorney

If you are a parent needing help getting child support, modifying an existing child support order, or collecting unpaid back child support, a child support lawyer can help. Use FindLaw to hire a local child support lawyer to set child support obligations, enforce child support orders, and other child support issues.

Learn About Getting Child Support