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Child Support

     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.

     Child support 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 contempt proceedings.

     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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