Child Support Lawyer FAQs

  • What does a child support attorney do?

    A child support attorney is a specialized family law attorney who works primarily or solely on child support cases. These attorneys advocate for clients in a variety of situations, including seeking child support from a resistant partner, paying child support, or recalculating child support payment amounts. Often, child support law is an area of practice within a firm that also handles custody and visitation matters.

  • Can I file for child support without an attorney?

    It is possible to file for child support pro se, or on one’s own behalf. This involves obtaining the necessary forms from the local family court and filling out all required paperwork carefully and on time. The court will then set dates for hearings, which usually must be attended in person. Parents filing without a child support attorney should thoroughly research child support and custody laws to put together a compelling and accurate defense. If you already have a court order, you can seek help in enforcing it from the local office of your state child support agency.

  • What is child support used for?

    Child support is used to divide the financial responsibility for raising a child or children between two separated or divorced parents. This court-ordered payment is typically paid from the higher-income noncustodial parent to the lower-income custodial parent. It's intended to cover the costs of basic necessities for a minor and to maintain his or her standard of living. Child support may also be used to split unexpected expenses that occur during a minor's formative years. Definitions of basic necessities may vary by state.

  • When do child support payments start?

    The administrative order from the state agency or court overseeing the legal proceedings will specify the start date of child support payments and may include retroactive payments. Depending on the state and the case specifics, child support may become effective on the date of the separation, at the time of the legal filing, or on the child's birth date.

  • What is child support based on?

    How child support is calculated depends largely on the state of residence and whether custody is joint or sole. Although every case is unique, states may consider the following factors when determining the amount of child support:

    • Number of children involved
    • Allocation of parenting time
    • Total income
    • Spousal support
    • Social Security and other public benefits
    • Expenses for medical and dental insurance coverage
    • Childcare costs
  • What is included in child support?

    Child support funds are intended to pay for a child's essential needs. Child support attorneys may advocate as to what should and shouldn't be included in the order. The court may expressly define the expenses to be paid for to help both parties understand their responsibilities.

    Child support may include the following items and services:

    • Food
    • Shelter costs, including mortgage or rent, utilities, and furnishings
    • Medical expenses, such as medications, eyeglasses, and physician and dental care services
    • Childcare services
    • Educational expenses, including books, school supplies, uniforms, and field trip fees
    • Extracurricular activity costs, such as summer camps, art supplies, or sporting equipment
    • Entertainment costs
    • Transportation and travel expenses
  • How can I check if I owe child support?

    The court order outlines any obligations of child support. Additional questions about payments owed can be routed through the appropriate local child support office. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Child Support Enforcement maintains a list of state agencies and tribal child support agencies throughout the United States and its territories.

  • Do women pay child support?

    Yes. Gender doesn't typically factor into the child support equation. A father who has custodial rights to a child or children may receive support from the child's mother, particularly if she is the higher wage earner. In the case of same-sex couples where two women are raising a child, the noncustodial mother may be required to pay child support.

  • Can an attorney advise a parent or guardian to stop paying child support?

    Child support is a source of financial assistance to a child, not to a primary custodial parent or guardian. As such, there’s no way to circumvent the law and stop paying support if it has been ordered by the court. Child support generally ceases when a child comes of age. However, if circumstances change financially for either parent, a child support lawyer can argue that the amount determined by the court should be reduced. It’s important to note that a deliberate situation, such as quitting a job voluntarily, is usually not a reason for reduced support payments. Judges generally require evidence that circumstances are out of the parent’s control, such as being laid off or furloughed from work.

  • How do I get child support when I have full custody?

    Full custody comes in two different forms: legal and physical. A parent with legal custody has the unilateral authority to make all legal decisions on a child’s behalf. Full physical custody indicates that a child lives with one parent full time. A parent with sole physical and legal custody generally receives larger payments than a parent with joint custody. A lawyer can make an argument in court to ensure that the primary parent gets the support necessary for proper child care.

  • What is residential custody of a child?

    Residential custody, also known as physical custody, refers to where a child lives. A parent who has full residential custody maintains a home for their child on a full-term basis. While the other parent may have visitation rights, they don’t have to provide any kind of permanent housing. In a joint custody case, however, a child may split their time between each parent, living a portion of the year with one parent and a portion with the other.

  • Do you have to be divorced to get child support?

    No, a divorce isn’t required to receive child support. If parents are separated or have already started the divorce process, a parent and their attorney can move forward with filing for child support. Child support can be settled in a different court case outside of divorce proceedings.

Find a Top-Ranked Child Support Lawyer Near You

We did the research for you!

  • Licensing
  • User Reviews
  • Mystery Shopping Calls

Learn about our selection process.