Marriage Defenders

With Justice for ALL (quote from the pledge of allegience U.S.A.)

This is an informational website offering support not legal advise

Issue - Child Support

Child Support How is child support determined? Each state has guidelines that help determine how much child support should be. The amount of child support will depend upon the incomes of both parents. Usually, child support can be increased when the paying parent achieves an increase in income through a raise or promotion. It can also be increased as the cost of living rises. Often a divorce decree includes a provision for an automatic cost of living increase each year. If it doesn't, the spouse receiving child support can ask the court for an increase. In addition, federal laws require child support to be reviewed automatically every three years in a proceeding lead by an administrative officer, usually from the state's probation department.

Questions have been raised about the legality of such a constant invasion of the privacy of individuals and the propriety of putting such reviews in the hands of administrative officials instead of the state courts. But so far no challenges have succeeded in overturning the law.

Can child support ever be reduced or increased? Yes. Child support will generally be reduced if the paying parent suffers an economic loss or downturn that is relatively permanent in nature. For example, if the parent loses his or her job, child support may be reduced for the time in which the parent is not working. When the parent hits retirement, support can then be adjusted as well. Likewise, if the paying parent receives a substantial increase in income, it may be possible to modify the support.

Can an unmarried mother get support from the father of her child? Yes. She will have to bring a lawsuit (assuming the father does not want to cooperate), which asks the court to establish the legal obligation of the father to support the child and set an appropriate amount of support. Once you have such an order, it can be enforced like any other child support order. How to get child support You will have to go through a legal process that has several steps:

First you file a complaint or petition. Often this is done in family court, and may be as easy as filling out a form.

Next, you must establish that the other party is indeed the father or mother of your child, usually through a genetic test. If the other party does not consent to the test (or just concede that he or she is the parent), you will have to ask a court to order the test. (If you were married to the parent, then it may not be necessary to go through this step.)

Finally, if paternity or maternity is established, the court will set an appropriate amount of support. There will probably be a hearing during which both parties will be allowed to put on evidence.

The judge will look at the income and assets of both parties and determine how much support should be paid. Note: It is the obligation of both parents to support their child. A father who has custody can go after the biological mother for support.

How can a person collect the support if it's delinquent? One of the biggest issues with child support is the difficulty in collecting it. Most states have set up programs for payment of child support (and alimony) through the court system so that if the payments are consistently late or not made at all, the state knows immediately and can act to collect the money or issue a warrant for the nonpayor's arrest. There are also private agencies that will seek out a non-paying parent for a share of the amount collected. If you are owed a substantial amount of money, this may be a good alternative for you. If you know where the other parent works, you can apply to the court (usually it's family court) to order a wage execution or garnishment, which would deduct your support payment directly from his or her paycheck on a weekly basis.

There are strict federal guidelines as to how much of a person's income can be taken, so it is possible that you may not get the entire amount of your support payment this way. You can also have the nonpayor's income tax refunds and certain other Federal Government benefits withheld or frozen if support is delinquent.

Is it possible to collect if the person has moved to another state? Yes. There is a procedure for collecting support if the payor lives in a state other than where the order to pay was entered. The law is called URESA, the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (sometimes RURESA for its Revised version), and it has been adopted by all 50 states and the United states' territories. Under URESA, an order of support issued in one state can be enforced in another state. To enforce an order under URESA, you have two options:

1. Registration: You register the court order that says the other parent has to pay support in the state where he or she now lives. You can call the family court in the appropriate county to find out what their local procedure is. The other parent's state moves to "enforce" your order, which means it acts to make the parent pay. This approach has a downside: The other parent can go to court in the new state and argue that he or she is being required to pay too much. The court is free to adjust the amount of support, which could result in your getting less money. If the other parent's state does this, your state has to accept the modification.

2. Enforcement Application: You go to the family court in your state and start an enforcement action. You should bring your original order for support with you, and you will probably have to fill out some forms. Your state's child support enforcement agency then contacts the state where the other parent now lives.

The other parent's state cannot adjust the amount of support owed, but it can determine that the amount is too high and thus order that only a portion of it has to be paid. With this option, your state does not have to accept the modification. So if the other parent pays you the amount ordered by his (or her) state, he will still owe you money in your state.

If the amount owed piles up, your state may issue a warrant for his arrest. The failure to pay would show up on his credit report, and he could run into problems if he tried to buy property in your state.

(Note: A more recent interstate law, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, UIFSA, does not allow another state to alter a support order. As of July, 1995, 24 states have adopted the law, and the rest are expected to do so.)

You should consider both options carefully before you file. Unfortunately, the process tends to be slow and bureaucratic, but eventually you should be able to collect your support. If you can't, you should consult a lawyer to find out what other remedies may be available to you.

Ways to collect delinquent payments:

Have money withheld from paychecks Have probation department monitor payments Have tax refunds withheld

URESA

Seize real estate or personal property

Require a cash bond be put down as a security deposit

Dealing with bureaucracies Collecting unpaid support can be a bureaucratic nightmare involving lots of paperwork and requiring lots of patience, and you should do all you can to make the system work for you, not against you. Basically anything you can do to get someone within a bureaucracy to care about you and your case will help make the process easier.

Some pointers to help move things along

: If you're dealing with the court system, check in regularly to see where your case stands. Always have your case or docket number available.

When dealing with people on the phone or in person, get their names so you can ask for them directly if you need to call check or follow up.

Notify the appropriate person or agency immediately if a problem arises. Don't put it off.

Be aggressive about asking for help and checking on the status of your case, but don't be obnoxious or rude--even though you may be frustrated and angry.

For more information on child support Contact your state's child support enforcement agency (CSE). Or, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has an information booklet. You can receive a copy by calling or writing to: Office of Child Support Enforcement Administration for Children and Families 370 L'Enfant Promenade, SW Washington, D.C. 20447 Phone: 202-401-9382

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