Federal requires states to set guidelines for support.
Courts and legislatures on both the state and federal level have tried to address the problems involved in determining fair and adequate child support and enforcing support orders. The sad fact remains, however, that child support is too often neglected or evaded entirely by the parent who's supposed to pay it.
If you are the parent of a minor child, whether by birth or through adoption, you have a legal obligation to provide financially for that child's shelter, food, clothing, education and medical care. No matter how bitter or unpleasant a divorce may be, no matter how disagreeable an ex-spouse becomes, even when visitation is unfairly withheld, your obligation to provide for your child continues until that child becomes a legal adult.
Federal law now requires each state to establish guidelines for calculating child support. The purpose of these guidelines is to eliminate unfair or arbitrary awards of support. In most states, the guidelines are fairly well defined, and take into account the incomes of each parent and the number of children to be provided for. The parent who receives physical custody of the child usually contributes a smaller share financially, because of the extra expenses associated with having custody.
Unfortunately, arriving at an award of child support is one thing; enforcing that award is another problem entirely. According to U. S. Census Bureau statistics, only about 26 percent of parents who have a court order for child support actually receive all the money they are supposed to get. One in three children who are entitled to support get nothing at all from the non-custodial parent.
In an effort to combat this problem, every state has now passed laws designed to make collection of support from an out-of-state parent an easier task. They permit a parent who has been awarded child support in one state to collect it from a parent who lives out of state by using the court system itself. The court in the state when the support was awarded contacts the court in the state where the non-paying parent lives. That court then orders the parent to make the support payments.
While these laws seem to be of great value, they don't always work as planned. First, the parent with custody has to know where the other parent is living, which in itself isn't always easy to do. Second, even if the parent is found, the court in the state where he lives may modify the amount to be paid, and may be inclined to do so if the parent claims to be out of work or down on his or her luck. And finally, given the number of other cases the courts have to deal with, these cases tend to get relegated to the bottom of the pile.
There are other methods available for collecting unpaid child support. State laws permit support payments to be withheld from a parent's paycheck. The IRS can withhold a delinquent parent's income tax refund and take other steps such as seizing property, and state revenue departments can also seize tax refunds to satisfy unpaid child support obligations. A parent who refuses to make court ordered child support payments can also be subject to charges of contempt of court and can also face criminal prosecution. In some states, a parent's professional license can also be suspended or revoked for failure to pay required child support.
Copyright 1999 ProSe Associates, Inc. All rights reserved.
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