Who Get's Child Support?

In order to be made to pay child support, a person needs to be established as the parent of the child. If the parents are not married, paternity must be established. This can be done in a number of ways, and can be done any time until the child reaches 18 years old. Paternity can be established voluntarily, for example, if the father's name goes on the birth certificate, or by genetic testing. However, it's important to be sure of paternity as once voluntary paternity is established, it is extremely difficult to change.

Under federal child support law all states are required to set guidelines for child support amounts. The typical methods used to calculate the amount of child support start with the net income of each of the parents (i.e. income after taxes, health insurance, social security, Medicare tax and other unavoidable expenses). Income is not just the money that a parent receives from a job, but also includes investment dividends, interest payments and other income.

Child Support Orders

Once a child support order is in place, it will stay in place until the child reaches the ‘age of majority' which can be between the ages of 16 and 19. Either parent can ask for a review of the payments, usually after a period of at least one year has passed since the original order. There are, however, appeals processes both in terms of wrong decisions and in cases in which a judge has not acted fairly or ethically.

The order only terminates if a child gets married, becomes legally emancipated or dies – and the age of majority or emancipation depends on the state. It is advisable to check with the court that issued the order or with your local child support enforcement office to find out when the obligation ends, and what you need to do when it does.

If the custodial parent, child and non-custodian parent all move out of the state, the order can be moved. For as long as one party remains in the state that made the original order, it retains jurisdiction.


The Child Support Enforcement Program arranges and implements child support orders. There is a charge to the state for this program unless you receive state or federal aid.

So what happens if someone doesn't pay? Unfortunately there are some parents who do not pay child support and if this happens states have wide-ranging powers to try to get non-payers to pay. Methods include withholding wages, suspending licenses needed for work, and requirements for employers to report non-payers. Non-payers who claim not to have any employment may be required to show evidence of job-search. In some states, non-payers can also be incarcerated.

If you are concerned about paternity, child support or a child support order contact your local Child Support Enforcement agency or local family court, If you need legal advice consult with an attorney to discuss the specifics of your case.

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