The Child Support Case Process
Child support cases are either filed by the parent receiving child support or by the state. They are processed in the same manner, except that when the state files the case, it does on behalf of the parent receiving state aid. Depending on the state, it may or may not appear in the caption of the case. If it does, the caption says, “State of [State], on Behalf of [Parent’s Name].
Child support cases filed post-dissolution are identified by the title of the petition. The words “child support” are in the title. These are normally modification cases, where one party is requesting an upward modification, a party is requesting a downward modification, or it is an enforcement action.
Child support cases modify child support that was ordered in the divorce action. Child support can only be modified if there is a substantial change in circumstances, i.e., a parent lost his job, has not been able to procure a job making what he was making, and cannot afford the current child support or the primary parent learns that the secondary parent got a significant raise in income. In the case of enforcement proceedings, a child support case calls the non-paying person into court to order him to start paying. [Read more about Child Support modification by Anthony Moreno here]
Once you have been served with a child support action, you have a set number of days to respond to the lawsuit. The number of days depends on your state’s Rules of Civil Procedure. A common time frame to respond is 20 days. On the 21st day, the filing party can ask for a clerk’s default. Once you get a clerk’s default, the case goes to a default final hearing, at which time, you can ask that the court allow you to respond. It is up to the court as to whether it will allow you to cure the default or if it enters an order based on the petitioner’s petition.
Once a child support action has been filed, be prepared to show financial information. If you are asking for an upward modification, you must show a need for it, or the ability of the other party to pay a higher amount. If you are asking for a downward modification, you must show why the child support should be lowered. Child support not only affects the parents paying and receiving, but it affects the child. Child support is used to provide food, clothing and housing for the child. It makes a significant change in how the paying party, the receiving party and the child lives. [Read more about what is Paternity/Parentage here]
How Long Must a Parent Pay Child Support?
A parent's legal support duty continues until the child:
- Turns 18, and has graduated from high school and isn't enrolled in college
- Graduates from college or attends college or vocational training less than full-time
- Turns 21 years old
- Enters into active duty in the military
- Also, the court can order parents to continue to support a disabled adult child who cannot support himself or herself.
What Expenses Can the Judge Order?
Child support will include financial support for basic needs such as food, clothing, housing, transportation, and health care. The non-custodial parent can also be responsible for daycare, extracurricular activities, private school expenses, and medical expenses not covered by insurance.
If a child support action is filed against you because you have not paid, you are still entitled to visitation. The receiving parent cannot withhold visitation from you from non-payment. If you cannot pay the full amount, you should at least try to pay something, because arrearages accrue, and you are expected to pay those arrearages. If you continue to not pay child support, eventually the court will sanction you. The court has several ways of “encouraging” you to pay the child support, from taking your driver’s license to jail time. If you need help contact Anthony Moreno right away.
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Specializes in Divorce, Child Custody and Child Support.
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