What Is Child Support?

In modern times, it’s increasingly common for parents who have children together to part ways. When parents live separately, they must reach an agreement about how to equitably share the responsibilities and rights that go along with parenthood. Even when custody is shared between the parents, one parent will still retain the primary custodial rights to the child and will ultimately bear the bulk of the day-to-day financial expenses responsibilities associated with raising the child. This parent is considered the custodial parent. Non-custodial parents are usually ordered by courts to make child support payments to help reimburse the custodial parent for expenses related to the youngster.

Child Support Statistics in the United States

The most recently released federal report regarding child support statistics was published in January of 2016.
The report indicated that there are around 13.4 million custodial parents throughout the country...
...and half of these parents have either an informal or legal child support agreement in place with the non-custodial parent.
Parents refer to the courts authority when reaching child support agreements in about 90% of child support cases.
On average, only about 68.5% of child support payments are received.
Back in 2013, the overall amount of child support payments expected exceed $32.9 billion dollars.
About 89.2% of parents who are currently owed back child support were mothers...
...and custodial parents spend on average about 16% of their total income on child support payments each year.
Surprisingly, the average cost of child support payments in 2013 only totaled $5,774 per year or $500 per month.

Child Support vs Alimony vs Custody

Alimony payments, or spousal support, is becoming increasingly rare in many states. These payments, usually made by the former bread maker in the marriage, are designed to help financially support one partner through the divorce process until they are able to find steady employment. Child support, on the other hand, is primarily dedicated to the basic needs of the child. Parents are often granted both alimony payments and child support orders simultaneously. The amount of child support payments the non-custodial parent is obligated to pay is greatly dependent on the couple’s custody arrangement. Physical custody involves determining where a child will primarily reside, and legal custody describes the parent’s right to make decisions about the child’s well-being. Parents may be awarded sole custody or joint custody.

Federal Laws Regarding Child Support

The United States legal system takes parental responsibility very seriously. Willfully failing to pay court ordered child support payments is against the law. When payments become overdue for longer than one year or tops $5,000, the parent can be charged with a misdemeanor. A conviction will result in not only a criminal record but also the potential of spending six months in jail. When payments are late for over two years or exceeding $10,000, then the crime becomes a felony.

Child Support Agreements in the U.S.

Child support agreements are formed between parents in order to legally define a parent’s financial responsibility. It’s advised that parents who reach agreements outside of the courtroom write down the formal agreement so both parties are aware of their responsibilities. These agreements should include details about which parent is responsible for paying support, the amount of money that will be allocated for support, the frequency of payments and the length of the payments. When parents have trouble reaching an agreement on their own, a court will rule on the various aspects of child support payments and then create a mandatory court order for the non-custodial parent.

Child Support Coverage

Each state has their own form of established guidelines to help them reach an appropriate amount of financial support a parent should be obligated to provide. In general, child support was created to cover the necessary expenses of raising a child including costs associated with food, shelter, clothing, educational needs, health insurance and basic entertainment. Courts take into account both parent’s financial status, custody agreements and the number of children in need of support when calculating an amount. Courts do not closely monitor the child support payments unless the child’s basic needs are not being met, so the custodial parent has the discretion to spend the money as they see fit.