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The plague of government is senile delinquency. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960

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HOW IS CHILD SUPPORT DETERMINED?

Most states have child support guidelines that establish the ordinary support required to raise and care for children. Generally, the income of both parents is used to determine the percentage of each parent's child support obligation. Other factors may be taken into consideration such as which parent is best able to provide medical insurance for the children and also which parent is allowed to claim the children as dependents on his or her income tax returns. Although the non-custodial parent is typically the parent contributing child support payments to the other parent, there are some exceptions to this. An attorney experienced in domestic law should be able to help address your concerns.

PHYSICAL AND LEGAL CUSTODY

Legal custody of a minor child generally means the right and responsibility to decide major issues of health, education, and welfare affecting the child. In contrast, physical custody means the right and responsibility to make day to day decisions relating to the child. A parent granted one form of custody, may not necessarily be granted the other. For instance, a judge can order one parent to have sole physical custody, yet order the legal custody to be joint between both parents. In cases of joint legal custody, both parents share the right and responsibility to make decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of the child. That means that the parents have a duty to discuss such major issues with each other and make joint decisions affecting their child. Consultation with an attorney familiar with domestic law may help in answering your questions regarding custody.

WHAT IS JOINT CUSTODY?

Many state's laws on child custody provide that joint custody is in the best interest of a minor child. Joint custody generally means that the right and responsibility to decide major issues of health, education, and welfare affecting a child are shared by the parents. Under joint custody, children may spend half their time with the mother and half with the father, although this is not always the case. Usually children will live with one parent most of the time and regularly visit the other. It is also possible in some states for one parent to have physical custody of a child but share in the joint decision making.

ENFORCING PAYMENT OF CHILD SUPPORT

Even if you have obtained a valid court order for payment of child support, the payor may not voluntarily comply with the order. In such instances, there are different ways of enforcing the order. The first is to file a petition for contempt with the court that issued the child support order. The court will set a hearing date for the noncompliant party to come in and explain why he or she has failed to pay the child support as stated in the court order. The judge may then issue another order that requires the payor to comply with the original order, plus pay court costs and the other side's attorney fees in most cases.

If the payor still fails to comply, or if you were not able to have him or her served with an order to appear for the contempt hearing, you may have his or her wages withheld. Different state's laws vary, but most will provide specific procedures for the garnishment or withholding of wages for nonpayment of child support. There is generally a limit on the percentage of a person's wages that can be withheld.

When child support payments are behind by one thousand dollars or more, child support enforcement agencies are required by federal law to report this information to credit bureaus.

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