Even though parents are not married
and live apart, they are both legally responsible for the support
of their child. The parent who the child lives with must provide
such things as food, shelter, education, and medical care. The
parent who the child doesn't live with must provide financial
support for the child until the child reaches the age of
eighteen or, in some cases, nineteen.
is always required even if the parents were never married. If
the parents were never married the court must establish paternity
of the child, for example; establishing who is the child's biological
father. Once paternity is established the father must support
the child. If the father refuses to acknowledge paternity he may
be required to take a blood test to confirm paternity. Please
refer to the fact sheet on Paternity for more information about
paternity. The duty to provide support for your child is not affected
by the marriage or absence of marriage between parents. The law
actually states that the father and mother of a minor child have
equal responsibility to support their child in the manner suitable
to the child's circumstances.
If the parent who the child lives
with is not receiving any governmental support (e.g. welfare)
the parents are free to decide the amount of child support on
their own. They can receive a court order stating the amount that
they have agreed upon. If the parents cannot agree on the amount,
they can go to court and a judge will decide based on a formula
that looks at income, childcare costs, medical costs, and time
spent with the child. If the parent who lives with the child is
not on welfare he/she does not have to get child support from
the other parent.
However, if the parent who the
child is living with is receives governmental support, the Family
Support Division of the District Attorney's Office will determine
the amount of child support based on the formula described above.
A judge orders the final amount of child support. The parent must
give the child support payments to the Family Support Division
as long as that parent continues to get welfare. If the parent
is on welfare, the Family Support Division of the District Attorney's
Office will automatically pursue child support whether or not
the parent with custody wants the child support.
The Family Support Division will
also recommend the child support amount and enforce a child support
order for a parent who is not receiving welfare if either parent
requests their assistance.
If a parent refuses to pay child
support, the Family Support Division can work to enforce child
support orders. It will try to get the parent to pay voluntarily.
However, if the parent still refuses to pay the child support,
more drastic steps are authorized by the Family Support Act of
1988. This Act allows for such actions as taking money directly
out of that parent's paycheck; taking that parent's tax refunds;
taking that parent's unemployment and state disability benefits;
taking any lottery money won by that parent; suspension of that
parent's professional licenses; liens; writs of execution; and
A child support
order can be changed. If one parent paying child support experiences
a significant change such as a loss or gain of employment, either
parent may request that the Family Support Division increase or
decrease the child support order. Parents can also ask to change
the amount of the child support payment if the amount of time
spent with the child changes significantly. If the Family Support
Division is not involved in a child support case the parent desiring
the change must ask the judge directly.
The duty to support your child
lasts until he or she reaches the age of majority, which is 18,
or 19 if he or she is still enrolled in high school.
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