Children Need Emotional and Financial Support From Both Parents.
There are a multitude of factors that a Judge and the Friend of the Court may consider when deciding if and how much child support shall be paid.
In the end, the court typically looks to two broad questions: (1) What are the children’s needs? (2) What ability to pay child support does the non-custodial parent have?
Other important facts to know about child support are as follows:
- Under all circumstances, a court does not have the legal authority to order child support to be paid after a child reaches 19 years and 6 months of age. However, the duty to pay child support is usually completed upon the child either reaching their 18th birthday or graduating from high school, whichever is later.
- While a monthly child support is awarded at the time a divorce is finalized, the amount of the ordered support can always be modified at a later date. Either party can make “Motion” to the court asking for a modification at any time. However, the party that files the child support modification Motion must be able to demonstrate that there has been a “change in circumstances” that would persuade the court to modify the monthly payment. For instance, the custodial parent can ask for an increase in child support based upon an allegation that the non-custodial parent is now earning more income than at the time of the original child support award. Conversely, the non-custodial parent can ask the court to decrease their monthly child support payment based upon an allegation that they have lost their job, taken a significant pay-cut, or now have to provide support to additional children.
- In most cases child support is payed from one party to the other via the Friend of the Court (FOC). Therefore, the FOC is the gatekeeper who both receives the child support payments from the paying party and then disburses the payments to the receiving party. Although litigants and even attorneys will often complain about the FOC payment system, it is a system that will keep exact records of who has payed specific amounts and who has received specific amounts. When disputes arise, the judge will almost always look at her computer FOC records (even during a hearing) to gain a clear understanding of the various credits and debits associated with a child support order. In some rare cases, the parties can ask to “opt out” of the requirement to have child support payments made through the FOC. While on some occasions parties are granted permission to opt out of FOC services, the judge will want to be convinced that the paying party is responsible enough to make the monthly child support payments without having them automatically withdrawn from their paycheck.
- Unfortunately, having child support ordered by the court and actually receiving child support are two different things. If the party who was ordered to pay child support fails to do so, they are in violation of a Court Order. Violating a Court Order is a serious matter and judges are usually quite displeased when a violator is brought before them. If there is a good reason for non-payment of the ordered amount, such as a major illness/injury or a sudden loss of job, the judge may show some sympathy towards the violator. However, if the violator has failed to pay due to mismanagement of their own financial affairs, or even worse, has simply chosen to disregard the court’s order, the judge could be very punitive. In the worst case, a judge can find a violator to be “in contempt of court” and can order the violator to serve time in the county jail.
Health Insurance for Minor Children
Under federal law, a parent does not have the luxury of deciding whether they will or will not provide health insurance to their minor children. Parents must provide the child with health insurance if it is available under the parents’ health insurance policy. While more often than not the judge will order the higher-earning party be the minor children’s health insurance provider, there is no specific rule and the judge will decide this issue on a case-by-case basis.
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