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Here are answers to common questions that parents may have about child support:

When is child support ordered?

A child support award can be attained from any biological parent of a child, regardless of whether the parents were ever married. Child support is not always ordered in divorce situations, even in arrangements other than joint custody. Only 57% of custodial parents have a child-support award, and of those who have one, only 47% receive full payments. (Grall, 2007) Many couples simply choose to split costs evenly in joint custody situations without involving the courts, taking the route of a more informal honor system. Others who could be awarded child support may simply choose to forgo it.

If I have joint-custody, will I still need to pay child support?

If the income of each spouse is comparable and/or sufficient to raise the children, then typically parents in joint-custody situations will split the costs of raising the kids without any formal order of child support. However, if one parent is well-off and the other parent isn’t, it’s possible that a child support order may still be issued in joint custody situations to allow for this discrepancy in income.

Once child support is set, can it later be changed?

Yes. Adjustments to the amount of child support paid can be requested by either party at any time. However, you will need to go through a similar process all over again, and the party petitioning for the change must be able to establish that there are significant changes in circumstance beyond his or her control which necessitate alterations to the current child support arrangement.

Is it possible for my child support to change if I move?

Yes. Whichever state the child resides in is the state that has jurisdiction over the rates applied. So a child support award issued in Nebraska may be substantially reduced if the child moves over to Wyoming, IF either parent files for reconsideration – something custodial parents need to think about before relocating.

What if I can’t pay child support?

Unlike other debts, failure to pay child support is a criminal offense that can land you in jail. So if something happens to where you lose your job or incur other catastrophic losses in income, you will need to file for a reconsideration of child support. If you’re unable to even pay a reduced amount, then you need to explain your situation to the court to have them allow you to make alternate payments in whatever amount you can afford. Child support in its entirety will still accrue during this time, but at least you’ll stay out of jail until you can get back on your feet.

How long must I continue paying child support?

Under normal circumstances, you’ll need to continue paying child support until each child (or the youngest child) reaches their eighteenth birthday. Some states may require that you continue paying child support beyond age 18 and up to age 19 if the child is still in high school. Payments would then cease once they graduate. Kids are on their own for college, and caring parents may want to work out accommodations for this amongst themselves, since it is not considered as part of child support. In some cases, payments to cover care for disabled children may continue through adulthood.

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