Child support is granted based on the guidelines of each state. So while singer Kelis may get a large amount in New York, a woman may get dramatically less in North Carolina based on similar facts and circumstances. According to the 2010 Census, the average monthly child support order is $430.00, whereas, the average cost of childcare/daycare is about $784.00 per month. That means, an average child support order would cover a little over half of childcare/daycare expenses but cover nothing as far as food, housing, transportation, medical treatment, clothing or activities.
Contrary to popular belief, your average custodial parent is not getting rich off of child support payments, nor is your caseworker getting a kickback for collecting those payments. Child support may seem complex and unfair, and at times, its implementation may actually work against the noncustodial parent due to lack of information.
You must know the rules of your jurisdiction's family court. A custodial parent must also understand that each jurisdiction has different standards that must be met in order to institute a child support order. The true purpose of child support enforcement, is to bring non-supportive parents to a tribunal in hopes of making the aggrieved parent whole again financially, ensuring that the child does not become a ward of the state through dependence on public funds.
Some people use it for their own personal desires, to get back at the other parent through putting him/her into the court system, or avoid paying in order to anger the other parent.
Questions that usually arise in a battle over money for the care of a child:
- How much money does it REALLY take to care for a child?
It depends on the needs of the child. If your child has special needs, he or she will require expenditures that other children may not have. Special needs are not just medical; they may also be educational or dietary needs.
- Why does the noncustodial parent want to shirk his/her obligation to provide for his/her child?
Look at the background of the person with whom you have had a child. Is he or she a responsible person? Does he or she have financial struggles? Does he or she have adequate resources to provide for the child?
- Why do I have to pay for a child, when I'm not even sure the child is mine?
The obligation to pay child support only comes once paternity is established. Paternity can be established in multiple ways: 1. By DNA testing, 2. By signing a birth certificate or affidavit of parentage or 3. By order of the court.
- The custodial parent does not allow me to see our child, do I still have to pay support?
Child support is connected to the needs of the child. Whether or not you see your child, your child still has needs. If there is an issue with access to your child, you have ways to remedy the situation. The same way a custodial parent seeks a court order for financial support, a non-custodial parent may seek a court order for access to the child.
- Why do I have to pay so much when someone else I know pays so little?
Child support, in most jurisdictions, is based on the combined monthly incomes of each parent. Then a formula is used to calculate the expenses (basic and medical) of the care for the child each month based on the prorated custodial care of the child. Your circumstances may be different than the person who pays less. He or she may have more custodial time with his/her child or may make less money each month.
- How do I know where the money is going?
I'll pay, but I want to make sure it is going to my child, not my ex. Examine the care and development of your child. Are the needs of your child being met? If so, you have your answer.
- My ex doesn't even work, why can't they make him/her get a job and help pay something toward the child?
In some jurisdictions, custodial parents are allowed to not work for up to three years after the birth of a child. After that time, there is a way that income can be “assumed” (imputed to) the non-working parent, thereby impacting (decreasing) the child support obligation of the non-custodial parent.
- I ask him/her what the child needs, why does he/she still want to go to court, when I do what I can?
The state considers the basic needs of your child; that may not comport with what you feel you are able to do. In order to determine what you’re required to do, an examination of your financial resources must take place. When it comes to taking care of children, you have to prioritize their needs over almost everything else.
- I take care of my child, why is my ex taking me to court?
Having a civil relationship with your ex and an established (documented) parenting agreement can help alleviate the use of court as a tool against you.
- I don't have a job right now, how do they expect me to give money I don't have?
Child support enforcement actually considers your employment status, but they can only consider it when you have informed them of it. Communicating with your caseworker will help you in the process. There are temporary “seek employment” orders that only require seeking employment and reporting employment searches that toll (freeze) making actual financial payments.
The best advice you will ever receive regarding child support and custody:
Establish paternity and develop a co-parenting plan.
In relationships, things happen that destroy a once beautiful situation. Children are often caught in the middle of the drama. Quite honestly, sometimes children come when there was never a relationship between the parents at all. Even in the latter situation, people can avoid the downward spiral that sends them running to family court or child support enforcement as a means to punish the other parent. Both parties must realize that each of them have rights associated with the care and support of the child.
Often conflict comes in denial of paternity, denial of visitation, and/or denial of support. To get around all of the chaos: Establish paternity from the beginning through a DNA test; Draft a parenting agreement that includes all matters regarding the care, love and support of a child; and Establish a plan for the monetary needs of the child. In some areas, there are work programs offered through family courts and the Department of Social Services that assist noncustodial parents in finding work.
Remember that a child needs both parents to be a healthy and productive part of his/her life. Whenever you deal with each other, the best interest of your child should be the focal point. Keeping your child from the noncustodial parent when that parent is not paying support is a sure way to insure that support will not be paid. As Pamela S. Glean, Director of Clinical programs at North Carolina Central University School of Law states, "Studies have shown that parents who have regular visitation and contact with their child(ren) are more likely to pay support on a regular and continuous basis."
This article does not constitute legal advice and MUST NOT be used as a substitute for sound legal advice. If you have a legal issue, contact an attorney qualified in your specific area of law to receive assistance.
CM Whitener, Esq. Is an attorney in Charlotte, North Carolina. After spending ten years practicing family law she has transitioned to business and entertainment law. Attorney Whitener continues to volunteer with the Mecklenburg County Child Support Enforcement Responsible Fatherhood Initiative as a custody expert.