It is universally accepted that it is the role of parents to be responsible for their children, for as long as they are minors. However, there are often situations in which the parents of a child do not live together and are not co-habiting or together whether because of a divorce, separation or other type of relationship breakdown. The child will generally live with one parent and the other parent may have access, visitation rights or sometimes does not have a right to see the child. Sometimes the father is not aware of his paternity.
This means that although one parent is the primary care giver, the other parent still has a responsibility to support the child. Child support is an ongoing payment made by the non-custodial parent for the benefit of the child. Child support usually becomes an issue on the break up of a relationship and can be determined at the same time as a divorce or other separation. However, not all parents who separate need to go through the courts in order to agree on child support contributions. Some parents are able to have informal arrangements that are agreeable to both parties without filing a lawsuit.
However a lot of times the issue of child support is not resolved amicably, or at all, so parents look to the courts for assistance. Federal laws dictate that all states are required to have guidelines to decide how much child support the non-custodian parent should pay. These guidelines vary from state to state, and the court has discretion not to follow them if it does not think that the guideline amounts are appropriate in the circumstances. In extreme cases the custodian parent may be required to pay child support for the times when the child or children are in the care of the non-custodian parent. There are also some situations in which the court decides to order a higher amount of child support than the average child support guidelines suggest.
If a parent who has custody of a child claims state financial assistance, before they receive any money they must pass the right to receive child support to the Department of Welfare.
If there is a question over the identity of the child's father it is necessary to establish paternity with a genetic test. Once the test proves the paternity of the father to the child, this will mean that legally he must pay father child support. In addition, the child may inherit from his father when he dies, and will also have the benefit of knowing the identity of their relatives. However proof of paternity highlights other issues: a father may want visitation rights and by law has an equal right to custody. It is therefore highly advisable to obtain legal advice as soon as possible after paternity is established.