Everything Parents Need to Know About Child Support

As much as a parent wants to be there every day for their children, sometimes life situations can make that more challenging.

But, regardless of the amount of time you spend with your child, you may be responsible for child support payments.


If you’re wondering how child support works, learning more about it may help you both determine how much you might have to pay, and understand what might happen if you miss payments.

What is Child Support?

For those unfamiliar with the term, child support refers to an ongoing payment that a parent is responsible for making on, typically, a monthly basis.

This payment is made to the custodian of the child, whether it be a guardian or another parent who has custody.

The purpose of child support payments is to ensure that the caretaker of the child has enough money to cover living expenses that are necessary for the child.

Child support payments are not the same thing as alimony payments, despite this being a common belief. 

How Long Does Child Support Last?

The determination of when child support payments end is up to the discretion of the court, but they almost always mandate that the payments continue at least until the child turns 18 years old.

This isn’t a hard and fast rule, however, and certain situations can alter this timeline such as the death of the child, or if the court decides payment should continue past 18 years old. 

How is the Child Support Amount Determined?

As with the length of child support payments, the actual payment amount is also determined by the court in advance.

The specifics can vary from place to place, but generally the child support payment amount is determined by looking at a variety of different factors.

These can include each parent’s gross income and disposable income, the percentage of time the child will spend with each parent, and other applicable necessary costs for the child (such as medical expenses). 

Consequences of Not Paying Child Support

In many cases, a parent may feel the verdict for child support is either not fair or not adequate, in which case they may consider filing a child support modification form to try and get the court to reconsider.

While this can occasionally be successful, some parents may simply choose to not pay instead. However, not paying child support is quite serious and can result in the following consequences:

  • Mandatory wage withholding that automatically deducts the child support amount from your income
  • Being forced to pay fines or perform acts of community service to make up for the lack of payment
  • Liens being placed on any property you own in order to recoup back pay on child support
  • A potential denial or seizure of a person’s tax refund
  • The revocation of a driver’s license or passport that will only be reversed once the necessary payments are completed
mom comforting child

Crucial Tips for Managing Expectations for Child Support 

Given the potential consequences of non-payment, it’s important to ensure that child support payments are made on time and in full.

Before the actual court date where the verdict for child support payments is made, it’s important to manage expectations to increase the odds of a favorable result. To that end, use the following tips:

1. Have a Target Figure in Mind

First and foremost, go into the child support meeting with a target figure in mind that you would be comfortable either paying or accepting.

Determine this by looking at your salary and evaluating how much your child currently accrues in expenses.  

2. Understand the Law in Your Area

Each city and state or province in North America has different child support payment laws, which is why reviewing those in your area is so important.

Knowing the details of your local laws will let you understand requirements that you previously might have been unaware of. 

3. Request Reviews of Child Support

Finally, if you believe the child support terms you have been given are unfair, request reviews to have it looked at again over time. 


The Bottom Line

While child support payments can be frustrating, especially when a person doesn’t get along with their former partner, they are a legally mandated obligation that is issued by the court.

Think of child support payments as payments meant to help your child, rather than money for your former partner, as this is what the intent is.

Take the time to review child support laws in your area, and use this information to determine how you and your former partner can move forward in the best way possible for your child or children.

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