What is Child Support?

Legal Definition
In family law and public policy, child support (or child maintenance) is an ongoing, periodic payment made by a parent for the financial benefit of a child following the end of a marriage or other relationship. Child maintenance is paid directly or indirectly by an obligor to an obligee for the care and support of children of a relationship that has been terminated, or in some cases never existed. Often the obligor is a non-custodial parent. The obligee is typically a custodial parent, a caregiver, a guardian, or the state.

Depending on the jurisdiction, a custodial parent may pay child support to a non-custodial parent. Typically one has the same duty to pay child support irrespective of sex, so a mother is required to pay support to a father just as a father must pay a mother. In some jurisdictions where there is joint custody, the child is considered to have two custodial parents and no non-custodial parents, and a custodial parent with a higher income (obligor) may be required to pay the other custodial parent (obligee). In other jurisdictions, and even with legally shared residence, unless they can prove exactly equal contributions, one parent will be deemed the non-resident parent for child support and will have to pay the other parent a proportion of their income; the "resident" parent's income or needs are not assessed.

In family law, child support is often arranged as part of a divorce, marital separation, annulment, determination of parentage or dissolution of a civil union and may supplement alimony (spousal support) arrangements.

The right to child support and the responsibilities of parents to provide such support have been internationally recognized. The 1992 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is a binding convention signed by every member nation of the United Nations and formally ratified by all but South Sudan and the United States. It declares that the upbringing and development of children and a standard of living adequate for the children's development is a common responsibility of both parents and a fundamental human right for children, and asserts that the primary responsibility to provide such for the children rests with their parents. Other United Nations documents and decisions related to child support enforcement include the 1956 New York Convention on the Recovery Abroad of Maintenance created under the auspices of the United Nations, which has been ratified by the 64 of the UN member states.

In addition, the right to child support, as well as specific implementation and enforcement measures, has been recognized by various other international entities, including the Council of Europe, the European Union and the Hague Conference.

Within individual countries, examples of legislation pertaining to, and establishing guidelines for, the implementation and collection of child maintenance include the 1975 Family Law Act (Australia), the Child Support Act (United Kingdom) and the Maintenance and Affiliation Act (Fiji). Child support in the United States, 45 C.F.R. 302.56 requires each state to establish and publish a Guideline that is presumptively (but rebuttably) correct, and Review the Guideline, at a minimum, every four (4) years. Child support laws and obligations are known to be recognized in a vast majority of world nations, including the majority of countries in Europe, North America and Australasia, as well as many in Africa, Asia and South America.
-- Wikipedia
Legal Definition
Child support refers to the sum that the noncustodial parent must pay to the custodian. This sum serves as a parental contribution for the child's basic living expenses, such as food, clothing, shelter, health care, and education. When a court orders a parent to pay child support, the parent must pay directly to the child's custodian rather than directly to the child. States generally do not impose an obligation to pay support for a child after that child has reached the age of 18.

An individual, however, only has a legal responsibility to support one's own biological children. Thus, a court cannot order an individual to pay child support for a stepchild, subject to the caveat that the individual did not formally adopt the stepchild. While the vast majority of states adhere to this rule, a few state statutes differ with regard to stepchild support. To determine the law in a particular jurisdiction, see state laws.

Trial courts determine the amount of the periodic installments for the parent to pay. The amount varies between cases, taking into account the unique circumstances of each case. Circumstances include the child's age, the particular health and educational needs of the child, and the standard of living that the child would have enjoyed if the family had continued living together. States differ on the exact methodology for calculating the amount of child support owed. Generally, however, courts will make specific findings regarding both the custodial and noncustodial parent's net monthly income. Many statutes require a parent to pay a set percentage of the parent's annual salary. Some statutes also require parents to pay a percentage of any bonuses received as well. The Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act requires parents to pay an amount reasonable or necessary to the for the child's support without regard to marital misconduct. Factors in determining reasonableness or necessity include the child's financial resources, the custodial parent's financial resources, the standard of living the child would have had if the marriage remained intact, the physical and emotional condition of the child and the child's particular educational needs, and the noncustodial parent's financial resources.

In addition to the periodic support payments, a court may order the noncustodial parent also to make contributions to future medical and dental expenses, vacation and camp expenses, and religious or private school costs. Jurisdictions are split regarding whether a noncustodial parent owes contributions to an 18-year-old college student seeking enrollment at a higher educational institution.

Jurisdictions also differ with regard to whether the death of an obligor extinguishes the obligor's future child support obligations.
Enforcement
Congress created the Federal Parent Locator Service partly to enforce child support obligations. The Service permits any authorized individual to obtain and transmit information regarding an individual under an obligation to pay child support or to whom another owes a child support obligation. Some states permit courts to impose wage withholdings on obligors in non-compliance. This process requires the employer to withhold a certain portion of the obligor's wages and turn them over to the obligee. If the employer fails to adhere to the order, the employer may be subjected to penalties. Courts also can hold the non-complying obligor in contempt of court, which may require that the non-complying obligor pay attorney's fees and court costs.
Legal Definition
A method of compensating a parent needing monies for raising and sheltering a child by another who has the means to manage the expenses associated with child support. A court of law usually determines the payments, based on the income level of the other parent. Stiff fines and even jail time can be imposed for a parent failing to keep up payment. The courts take a dim view for scofflaws.