Child Support

Child support (or child maintenance) is an ongoing, periodic payment made by a parent for the financial benefit of a child following the end of a marriage or other relationship


At this time, about 41% of first marriages end in divorce. For second and third marriages, that number increases to 60% and 73%, respectively. Child support is the financial obligation due for support a child as he or she matures. If a child does not live with one of the parents, a court may require that this parent pay child support to the custodial parent. This sum of money serves as a parental contribution for the child’s basic living expenses, such as food, clothing, shelter, health care, and education.

If one parent has sole custody, the non-custodial parent typically pays most of the child support. The child support payments reflect the fact that the custodial parent probably doesn’t have enough financial resources to completely provide for the child.

To set the amount of child support, a court will also consider other financial assets. They are:

  • Social Security income.
  • Workers’ compensation benefits.
  • Military veterans’ benefits.
  • Retirement plan income.
  • Gifts and prizes.
  • Lottery winnings.
  • Income from self-employment.

A court sets the amount of child support and the payment schedule. Some of the potential consequences of refusing to pay required child support payments include:

  • Property seizure.
  • Suspension of your business license.
  • Suspension of your driver’s license.
  • Tax refund interception.
  • Wage garnishment.
  • Arrest and time in jail.

Since the laws that govern child support calculations vary, it is important to research how child support is handled in your case to understand how the amount is determined.  Here is a general description of each model of child support:

  1. Income shares model. According to this model, courts will determine the amount it would take per month to raise a child, add the incomes of both parents together and then figure out what each parent would owe based off their contributions to the total amount.

A modified version of the Income Shares Model is used in Montana, Delaware and Hawaii – the Melson Formula. The formula allocates to each parent a poverty self-support reserve. The formula then determines the total remaining combined parental income, the non-custodial parent’s percentage thereof, and applies the non-custodial parent’s percentage to a standard “primary support obligation” based on the number of children. Finally, after the primary support obligation is subtracted, the formula assesses the non-custodial parent an additional percentage of his or her remaining income.

  1. Percentage of income model. This model uses only the income of the non-custodial parent in the determination of an award. This method takes the income of the obligor and attributes a percentage that will be taken out as child support based on state factors.

If a married couple has a baby, the legal presumption is that the husband in that family is the father of the baby. But when a child is born outside of marriage, there is no legal presumption of paternity. Without establishing paternity, an unwed father has no legal standing as it relates to visitation, shared custody or the ability to make decisions about the welfare of the child. The court will order the “putative” (or alleged) father to submit to the testing if he does not agree to do so voluntarily. Once paternity is established, the court will issue a child support order in a manner similar to that in a divorce situation.

If you are worried the child support you are paying is too high, or if you would like a more accurate approximation of what the costs may be following a divorce, contact a qualified child support attorney.

Thomas Elliott

Education: Brooklyn Law School, Brooklyn, New York. Pace University, White Plains, New York.
Professional Associations and Memberships: American Bar Association, New York State Bar, The Association of the Bar of the City of New York, Brooklyn Bar Association, National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA).

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