Understanding Child Support Law

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Under state law, parents have a right to financial support for their children. Trial courts calculate these payments by reviewing each parent’s most recent tax returns, pay stubs and other documentation of earnings.

A court determines each parent’s income by adding up the amount each earns, minus certain deductions. Then the court divides that number by two.

Custody and Visitation

The laws of many countries and states permit parents to create informal or formal arrangements outside of the court system where they share responsibility for financial child support. In addition to or instead of formal custody agreements, a parent can request that the courts establish visitation rights for them to spend time with their children.

Courts decide custody and visitation issues based on the best interests of the child. For example, the courts might award one parent physical custody which involves providing a home, food, clothing and access to household goods and utilities. This is also known as residential custody. Parents with physical custody may share legal custody of the child, which includes deciding religious beliefs and making medical decisions.

Unless there is a reason not to do so, the courts generally favor shared custody and regular visitation for both parents. It is a crime for a person obligated to pay child support to cross state lines or leave the country with the intention of avoiding paying that obligation (see 18 U.S.C SS 228(a)(3)).

Income and Expenses

Under¬†child support law, parents must share the costs of raising their children. The judge will consider the parents’ income, expenses and other factors to determine how much money each parent must pay.

Both parties must bring evidence to court, such as tax returns, paycheck stubs and completed financial disclosure statements. A “support magistrate” will conduct a hearing and take testimony from both sides. Both parties may hire lawyers or represent themselves without them.

Besides basic child support, the judge can order mandatory add-on expenses such as health insurance, unreimbursed medical costs and share of childcare expenses for the custodial parent. The judge can also include additional expenses such as travel costs for visitation or extracurricular activities like sports, lessons and field trips.

Some parents try to reduce their child support obligation by intentionally under-earning. To prevent this, judges may impute income to the party that has not been working up to his or her potential.


Raising a family isn’t cheap. Even if both parents share custody, they still have to support their children financially. This is why a court can order one parent to pay the other based on their respective earning capacities and the amount of time each spends with the kids. It is important to understand how child support affects taxes.

In general, child support payments are neither deductible by the payer nor claimed as income by the payee. However, some states have laws that allow for deductions and exemptions.

If a person owes past-due child support, it can be certified to the federal Internal Revenue Service and New York State Department of Taxation and Finance for wage garnishment and tax refund offset. The government can also revoke any benefits that have been paid out in lieu of child support, such as food stamps and unemployment insurance. It is important to consult with an experienced lawyer when dealing with matters involving child support.


In the US, child support is regulated by state governments. Local and state agencies have the power to help parents find missing parents, establish paternity, and file for support on behalf of children and parents who receive government benefits like public assistance. They can also order income withholding and take other enforcement action to ensure that parents meet their obligations.

Trial courts determine the amount of child support to be paid on a case-by-case basis or through a formula estimating what it is thought that parents should pay for their children’s needs. States often have additional guidelines that provide for add-ons such as day care and health insurance costs.

If a parent is found to be in willful noncompliance with a child support order, he or she can be jailed for up to six months. Other forms of enforcement include income withholding (garnishment) and the use of financial institution data match to locate assets and seize them.