August 2023 is National Child Support Awareness Month. This is a time to raise awareness for the child support program, and how it helps many children across the country to have financial stability and to live fulfilling lives.
According to the Administration for Children and Families,
August is Child Support Awareness Month, an annual time to raise awareness about a critical income support program that helps millions of children and families.
In FY 2022, child support programs nationwide collected $30.5 billion and served 1 in 5 children in the United States. This kind of support helps families thrive and sets kids up to succeed.
The child support program assists single-parent families to collect support from the non-custodial parent. In some situations, even when parents split custody 50/50, one parent may need to pay the other parent child support so that the child can have a consistent style of living across their two homes.
When I got divorced in 2012, it was in my divorce agreement that I would pay child support until my daughter turned 18, due to the disparity in income between her dad and I at the time.
Child support is typically ordered by the court when one parent makes more money than the other, or when one parent has been a stay-at-home parent during the marriage. This allows the children to have some stability in their lifestyle post-divorce.
Even if a couple was never married, one of the parents may need to pay child support, depending on their income and the child's living arrangements.
Here are some additional facts about child support from the Sacramento County Child Support Services:
DCSS is a neutral third party and does not represent the child, parents or guardians. Either parent can open a child support case by contacting DCSS.
A legal parent does not have to be a biological parent. Legal parentage is determined by marriage, voluntary declaration of parentage or court order.
Ignoring a child support action does not make it go away. If you do nothing, the court will assume you agree with what was requested.
Two important factors in determining how much child support is due are the income of each parent and the actual time the child spends with each parent. Parents may go to the California Guideline calculator to get an idea of how much child support may be due.
If a parent has no income, the court can consider earning capacity in deciding how much a parent should be ordered to pay. Earning capacity is the ability and opportunity to earn income.
If your circumstances change—losing a job, getting a raise, going to jail—it is important that you contact a child support office or the courts to address your new situation.
Child support must be paid directly to the person determined to receive support within the court order unless your case is open with a child support office. If your case is opened with a child support office, payments must be made directly to the State of California Disbursement Unit, which will send your payment to the correct party.
Child support must be paid, even if the other parent is not allowing the parent paying support to see the child and even if you have a change in circumstances.
Child support is due and payable until the balance is paid in full. When you do not pay child support as ordered by the court, the unpaid amount becomes past due and accrues interest.
Your driver’s license might be suspended for nonpayment of child support. If your driver’s license is suspended, you may negotiate a release with a child support caseworker.
Although child support can provide a great benefit to the children, not everyone sees it that way. If there is a high-conflict divorce for example, the parent ordered to pay child support may not want to, feeling that it is punitive against them. Also, it may seem like a great deal of money to be paying after the expenses of a contentious divorce.
When child support and custody questions come into play, there can be a push-pull between parents when they split up. It is always important to put your children's wellbeing first, although at times this becomes difficult. You should never try to use your child to "get back" at your ex when you split up. This can lead to parental alienation, and emotional problems for your child.
According to Family Lawyer Magazine,
The biggest reason why people don’t pay their child support is because they don’t see the direct value of how it helps support their children. Secondly, it’s very upsetting, as a hard working adult, to have a judge or attorney tell you what amount and when you will pay child support.
One would think that child support disputes would be limited to high conflict divorces. This is not the case. Even in a friendly divorce, child support can become a problem. It’s frustrating to hand over your money to an ex-spouse and not have authority over how exactly that money will be allocated. Without certainty about exactly how those funds will be spent, it’s hard to be motivated about paying that child support amount and paying it on time.
In my work as a divorce mediator, I see one common theme with many couples experiencing these child support issues. The main issue almost always originates with the spouse not having enough say about what the child support amount will be.
When a couple can agree in mediation about child support, it is better for the couple and the children in the long run. Arguing over money between parents can negatively effect the children, and the relationship that they have with each parent.
Typically, it is in the best interests of the children to have both parents actively involved in their lives. Usually, this would only not be the case if there was a history of child abuse or neglect. Most of the time when couples split up, it is for less insidious reasons.
If you are required to pay child support, it is in the best interests of your children to do so. However, if you are struggling with the payments, you can schedule a hearing with the court to modify the amount that you are required to pay. It is always best to go through the proper channels to make changes, instead of just refusing to pay.