Frequently Asked Questions about Child Support

Q: How is child support determined?

A: Each state has child support guidelines in place that are used as the foundation for determining the amount of child support owed. While guidelines vary from state to state, courts setting child support orders will generally follow the amount suggested by the guidelines unless a reason to depart from them exists. Most guidelines factor in at least some of the following:

  • The needs of the child;
  • The relative abilities of the parents to pay support; and
  • The standard of living the child would have had but for the divorce.

Q: Can I get child support if I never married my child’s father?

A: Yes. Both of a child’s biological parents owe that child a duty of financial support. You can work with an experienced family law attorney and/or your state’s Child Support Enforcement office to obtain a support order. Don’t be surprised if the person you name as the father initially contests paternity and asks for a DNA test. Once paternity has been established a support order will be entered.

Q: Do mothers have to pay child support when fathers have custody?

A: Yes. The child support guidelines make no distinction based on the gender of the custodial parent. Even when joint or shared custody exists, some states weigh the relative earning capacity of each parent and order support accordingly.