Parents have a moral and legal obligation to financially support their children until adulthood, and the legal mandate exists regardless of whether the parents are married or not. Legally-recognized parents are always accountable for child support, but this obligation is subsumed into the normal household expenses when a couple is together. It is only through separation or divorce that child support becomes a central issue that a parent will need to formally establish to ensure payment is received. In a perfect world, both parents would automatically contribute whatever is necessary to support the child’s welfare, but reality reveals that many parents must be ordered to pay child support before they will comply. The parent who provides most of the childcare will have to directly face this issue, and is usually forced to initiate the process to avoid having to support the child on his/her own. However, understanding how child support is established, and what needs to be done to obtain an enforceable order, is not necessarily obvious. A discussion of the options parents can pursue, both within and outside of the divorce process, will follow below.
Child Support as Part of Divorce
Filing for divorce triggers a number of legal reactions, with one being the need to assess any child custody and child support matters between the couple. Attorneys typically lead the procedural and legal aspects of divorce, and can help couples negotiate child support. Any agreement related to children, though, must be approved by a family court judge, and a standard formula is used to calculate the appropriate amount. If an agreement deviates from this formula too much, and there is worry the child will not be adequately supported, the court can reject the proposed settlement. In any divorce, however, child support is a part of the final judgment, and almost always includes an associated income withholding order, a court order which obligates a parent’s employer to automatically withdraw the specified amount, and submit it to the county clerk’s office or the State child support office for disbursement to the other parent and to track payments.
Note that attorneys may always be used as a source to secure a child support order, even in the absence of divorce. In most of these situations it is first necessary to establish paternity, which declares a man to be a child’s legal father and brings all of the associated rights and responsibilities.
Child Support Division Option
There is another option that uses a state agency to obtain a child support order, which can only be issued by a judge. The Indiana Child Support Division, contacted through the local prosecutor’s office, also holds the authority to initiate a child support petition on a parent’s behalf, as well as establish paternity if necessary. Once a request is made, any parent receiving public assistance must apply for child support, and in all cases, the State has 90 days to start collection or at least begin the process. Parents not receiving public assistance are not required to seek child support, but the child typically benefits from additional support for matters related to education, medical care, activities, and the like. The same income withholding orders are issued in these cases as well, and the child support unit can also assist parents with enforcing existing orders if a parent decides to stop paying.
Contact an Indiana Family Law Attorney
Providing for your child is not easy with the rising costs of living and the expectations society puts on families to have and do certain things. If you have questions about child support, and need advice that will help you reach your goals, speak with Christopher L. Arrington, P.C. today. With years of experienced helping clients navigate divorce and related family law issues, this Danville law firm is available to assess the facts of your case. Contact them to schedule an appointment.