Custody and Child Support
Inextricably bound to the states' powers to adjudicate custody and visitation rights are the states' powers to impose and order the payment of financial support to the custodial parent. While both parents are responsible for their children, the custodial parent generally meets that obligation through the act of custody. The noncustodial parent meets that obligation by paying for the child's care. Court-imposed support orders are most often the result of divorced parents, but can arise from other circumstances such as legal separation, annulment and paternity actions involving "presumed" or "acknowledged" fathers. Child support payments are distinct awards not related to alimony or other "rehabilitative support" payments.
States now require that child support awards be computed by a mandated formula which weighs certain factors or criteria such as the needs of the child, the relative income and assets of the parents, and the standard of living to which the child was formerly accustomed. Many statutes permit a court to depart from the presumed correct formula, and modify the award where it is unjust or inappropriate by reason of facts peculiar to that case. A court may also overrule the private parties' non-judicial agreement. Also included in most support orders are provisions dictating to whom the payments should be made (the custodial parent, an officer of the court, etc.). A child support order may also contain provisions mandating that the paying party maintain health and life insurance policies to protect against interruption or loss of support. Security deposits may be required, along with the payment of late fees and COLA (Cost of Living Adjustments).
Child support ends upon the child's reaching the age of majority, or upon a judicially-determined emancipation of the child through marriage, adoption, military service, etc. Conversely, state provisions often mandate continued support until the child completes a certain level of education or attains a certain age past majority, whichever comes first. Most states mandate continued coverage for disabled or legally-incompetent children. As with orders for custody and visitation, support orders are subject to modification upon petition to the court for good cause (change in circumstances).
- Custody and Child Support - Enforcement
- Custody and Child Support - Visitation
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