Child support laws exist to ensure that mothers and fathers support their children, even if the children are not living with both biological parents.
They do not require parents to be married to establish an award, only paternity or maternity must be proven for an obligation to be found. Once paternity is established, usually through a DNA test, courts follow state-mandated guidelines or court determinations in determining an award.
In child support actions, one parent is usually designated as the custodial parent, and accorded the role of primary caregiver. The other parent, or non-custodial parent, is regarded by the laws as the non-custodial parent and remains obligated to pay a proportion of the costs involved in raising the child. In some joint custody cases, where the role of primary caregiver is split equally, laws may dictate that one parent continue to pay for support, if there is a significant disparity in the two parents’ incomes.
Child laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and there are many approaches to determining the amount of award payments. Many states consider multiple several factors when determining support, such as the income of the parents, the number and ages of children living at home, basic living expenses and school costs. If the child has special needs, the laws may take costs involved with caring for these childrens’ exceptional situation into consideration.
They may provide for the earmarking of funds for specific items, such as school fees, day care or medical expenses. These laws serve to make custodial parents more accountable for the money they receive from non-custodial parents, and ensure that the children get what they need. For example, in some jurisdictions may require parents to pay tuition fees directly to their child’s school, rather than remitting money to the custodial parent.
Each parent may also be required to assume a percentage of expenses for various needs. For instance, in the U. S. state of Massachusetts, custodial parents are required to pay for the first $100 of annual uninsured medical costs incurred by each child before non-custodial parents are charged. Often, non-custodial parents may be required to add their children to their health insurance plans. This is done to reduce the number of children receiving public assistance.
Most laws provide a mechanism that will imprison a non-custodial parent if they fail to pay their amount due. Non-custodial parents can be sentenced to jail time for up to six months for non-payment. While incarcerated, the parents are still responsible for the amount due and future payments. Child support laws often do not make provisions for if a non-custodial parent is unemployed, filing for bankruptcy, or even homeless — child support must be paid and will be enforced.