Child Support After Divorce: Full Guide

Figuring out child support after a divorce can be intimidating and stressful. In this article, we break down how child support works after divorce, what the legal terms mean from placement to custody and how child support is calculated.

This is a guest post.

Child support is an ongoing, periodic payment made by a noncustodial parent following the end of a marriage or relationship. On a general basis, both parents have a legal duty to support a minor child. Support is essential towards meeting a child’s basic needs even if the custodial parent can care for the child single-handedly.

How Child Supports works

The issue of financial support typically arises when married parents file for divorce. Once the request is filed, the papers are served to the other party. The receiving parent generally has a given number of days to respond before a hearing is set to issue a temporary order.

The court reviews each parent’s paperwork listens to their testimony, and issues a support decision. This decision will then be formalized both verbally and constitute part of your divorce records.

The sooner a case is filed, the sooner the court can set a temporary support obligation for the paying parent. Typically, this happens within 60 days of filing for divorce in a court of law.

Related: How to Help Your Child of Divorce with Separation Anxiety

However, delays may occur if the seeking parent fails to complete the support request. It can also occur if there is misfiling or inaccurate information provided by either party.

There is no legal obligation to make support payments unless the court orders the payments. Parents are always free to make arrangements and offer agreements on their own. However, the court retains the final word in the best interests of the child/ren.

What are the applicable laws?

Payment amounts may increase or decrease over time if a parent petitions the court. One example is if a parent loses their job and puts a strain on the child’s financial situation. 

Every state has different formulas to calculate the support amounts. It is formulated at the state level. There are also federal guidelines that exist under the Child Support Enforcement Act. Because states set up their system, there is considerable variation between states in how they calculate support.

Determining Responsibility

To establish a court order, the court must first determine which parents are responsible for paying support. The discussion begins with custody and placement. The two terms can often be confusing. We will distinguish these terms below.

Related: What your kids need from you after divorce

Placement and Custody

Placement is a legal term that simply means where the child lives or who the child legally lives with. The physical placement has more of an effect on child support than custody. Custody states who has the legal authority to decide the child’s religion, education, and health care.

 Physical placement arrangements:

  • Primary Placement: The main parent that the child lives with. This parent possesses sole, shared, or split placement.
  • Sole Placement: Where a child lives with one parent all the time.
  • Shared Placement:  A child lives with each parent at least 25% of their time.
  • Split Placement: This can happen when there is more than one child involved in the custody arrangement. Split placement typically means each parent gets primary placement for different children.

Child custody:

  • Sole Custody: One parent has sole legal authority over their child.
  • Joint Custody:  Both parents have equal legal authority over their child/ children.

Unless they adopt the child, stepparents don’t have a legal responsibility for a child. If the former is the case, they’re no longer “stepparents” and therefore can be ordered to pay support in certain cases.

Related: How to heal after a divorce

parents fighting

How child support is calculated

The gross income of both parents is factored into the calculation. In addition, the following costs are weighed in:

  1. The child’s cost of medical, dental, and vision insurance
  2.  The cost of necessary care
  3. Additional expenses such as:
  • school tuition
  • counseling
  • travel expenses
  • Household bills & expenses

Details regarding each element of the above can differ according to individual state laws. What does apply in all states is that parents are legally obligated to fulfill their support obligations.

Related: Overview of the Best Co-Parenting Apps

Where to apply for child support

You can apply through your local, state, or tribal support office. Usually, applying to your local support agency is the most effective. You can also rightfully apply to another tribunal if that will result in more efficient service.  State support agencies can be found and contacted online.

Child attorney lawyers

Issues affecting children can get complicated for both parents. Hiring an attorney or law firm to assist with the custody or divorce can make things easier to understand. They will explain the rules, regulations, and steps involved with enforcing or complying with support orders.

This legal professional will also ensure that rights are adhered to, safeguarding children’s rights, such as public education. Contacting an attorney may help make the entire process less stressful.

Related: How to Talk to Your Children About Splitting Up

parents separated

Child Support after remarriage 

If you plan to remarry, consider what impact this may have on your child’s financial support. Also, consider what your options may be if your new spouse decides to adopt your kids.

Divorce and remarriage have no impact on whether you receive support or not. Generally, the law directs that only the birth parents are responsible for the child’s support. 

Beyond financial support

The goal of child support is to divide the costs associated with raising a child. Divorce can be traumatizing for all involved, but children are the most vulnerable. Not only do they need financial support, but emotional support as well. Parents should bear this in mind when initiating any form of proceedings that affect their children.

About the Author:

Emily Andrews is the marketing communications specialist at RecordsFinder, an online public records search company. Communications specialist by day and community volunteer at night, she believes in compassion and defending the defenseless.

Child Support After Divorce: Full Guide