Child support is a series of payments made to a custodial parent by a non-custodial parent to help equalize the expense of raising a child or children. Child support is one of the most oft contested aspects of divorce, next to the actual legal and physical custody of the child. Family law attorneys include those who specialize in the highly volatile world of negotiation child support agreements.
Typical expenses covered under court-ordered child support include the cost of sheltering, feeding, and clothing a child, along with costs associated with medical treatment, education, and other necessities. Many times the cost is calculated as a percentage based on the custody arrangement, i.e., the parent who has the child the majority of the time is reimbursed until his or her contribution is 50% of the total cost to raise the child. This varies by state and by judge and in accordance with the parents income. The monetary amount is based on the income, as well, with higher income parents expected to pay more than lower income parents.
Failure to pay child support is punishable by wage garnishment and even jail time. If the burden becomes too heavy, a parent can file for an adjustment of payment. This may not erase the entire debt owed, but it can alleviate the short-term payments and can sometimes be applied retroactively.
Whether collecting child support or paying it, family law attorneys are usually the best source of information for negotiating payments and calculating expenses.