All parents have a legal responsibility to financially provide for their children. The child support you pay helps keep your children healthy, fed, and well cared for. Failure to make your child support payments can have devastating consequences for both you and your family. Use this checklist as a guide to help you stay up to date with your child support payments.
Decide on the terms: Before a court can enforce your obligation to support your children, there must be a valid order in place. You and your co-parent may decide when and how much child support you need to pay by creating an agreement that is approved by the court. If you are unable to negotiate with your co-parent, a judge will issue a court order after reviewing your financial information and that of your co-parent. States have specific rules that you or the court must follow when determining the amount of child support.
Keep contact information in a safe place: If ever you need to change your child support for any reason, you’ll have to notify several different people. Make sure you have the contact information on hand for your co-parent, your family law attorney, your co-parent’s attorney, and the state administration responsible for handling child support payments.
Set up child support withholdings: Some states allow you or order you to set up child support withholdings. Under a withholding schedule, the state administration responsible for collecting and disbursing child support payments will automatically deduct child support out of your paychecks. This ensures that you’ll never forget to make a payment and that payments will be made on time. If your state doesn’t have support withholding, you may be able to set up an automatic payment schedule with your bank. Just remember to always keep enough money in your account to cover the payments.
If you fail to stay current with your child support payments, your co-parent can ask the state administration or court to enforce the order. These enforcement actions may impact your ability to travel and work and could result in fines or jail time.
Keep your information up to date: Be sure your co-parent, the attorneys involved, and the child support administration have your most current contact information. You and your co-parent should also notify one another, your attorneys, and the state administration if there has been a substantial change in circumstances that may affect a child support calculation, particularly any new custody arrangements.
Modify your child support: Most states allow you to change your payments to reflect your current financial status. If you are struggling to meet your child support obligations because you lost your job or have to support more children, you may be able to modify your payments to make things easier. It’s important to act quickly to modify your child support order because you are responsible for any unpaid amounts, which generally cannot be reduced after the fact or wiped out through bankruptcy.
Get Legal Help With Your Questions About Paying Child Support
When it comes to child support, especially when a court order is in place, it's important to ensure that both parents are in compliance. However, as with most things in life, situations change as, for example, a parent may lose a job or earn a significant increase in pay. Whatever the situation, you'll want to make sure that you're paying the correct amount of child support. It's best to reach out to a well-qualified child support attorney in your area who can not only help in getting a child support order but also review prior orders.