*Conventional wisdom is that a child who receives custodial, emotional, spiritual, and financial support from both parents in a two-parent household is more likely to succeed in life. Whether or not this is true is debated in numerous books and articles by sociologists and child psychologists.
Given the high rate of divorce and the prevalence of single mothers in the African-American community it is imperative that African-Americans understand child support laws in the United States from the perspective of both the custodial and noncustodial parent.
Here are ten things to know:
1. WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I BECOME PREGNANT, DO NOT KNOW THE FATHER OF MY CHILD, AND NEED FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR MY NEWBORN?
If you are in the unfortunate position of having to determine the father of your child, you may have no choice but to file a complaint for child support against all persons who potentially may have fathered your child. In most jurisdictions, if fatherhood is not acknowledged through parental affidavit, you or your counsel will want to file a motion with the court to obtain a court order to establish parentage through DNA testing. Once parentage is established, the court will dismiss the complaint against the potential fathers.
2. WHO CAN ASSIST ME IN LOCATING THE OTHER PARENT TO COLLECT SUPPORT IF I CANNOT AFFORD AN ATTORNEY?
Every jurisdiction in the United States has a government agency that prosecutes and enforces the collection of child support payments.
3. HOW DO I START THE CHILD SUPPORT PAYMENT COLLECTION PROCESS?
A case for child support payment is initiated by filing a complaint or petition for child support in the jurisdiction where you reside. You must have the noncustodial parent’s address so that he or she can be served with the complaint or petition for child support.
4. HOW MUCH CHILD SUPPORT CAN I COLLECT?
Child support payments are set by guidelines that take into account the monthly net income of the noncustodial parent, his or her monthly expenses, and other children the parent is actively raising.
5. HOW LONG WILL I BE ABLE TO COLLECT CHILD SUPPORT FOR MY CHILD/CHILDREN?
Depending on the jurisdiction, child support can be collected until the child reaches the “age of majority,” which is usually 18 years old, or 21 years old, depending on the jurisdiction.
6. WHAT SHOULD I DO IF THE OTHER PARENT FLEES THE STATE OR LEAVES THE COUNTRY OR IS IN JAIL?
If the noncustodial parent moves to another state, the state where you filed the petition for child support will maintain personal jurisdiction over the parent. The state where the parent fled will give full faith and credit to the state in which enforcement is sought. This means that regardless of whether the parent leaves the state where the petition is filed, you will still be able to collect support because the state where that parent resides will recognize the child support judgment.
7. WHAT CAN I DO IF THE OTHER PARENT STOPS PAYING SUPPORT?
If the noncustodial parent stops paying child support, you, your case worker, or lawyer has the option to file a lien against his or her real or personal property and/or garnish his wages (up to a limited amount). You also have the right to collect any arrearages from his federal income tax return.
8. WHAT HAPPENS IF THE OTHER PARENT LOSES HIS OR HER JOB AND CAN NO LONGER PAY SUPPORT?
If the noncustodial parent loses his or her job, the custodial parent has the ability to attach a lien against the noncustodial parent’s unemployment insurance benefits if he or she is entitled to any.
9. If I GET MARRIED OR REMARRY, AM I STILL ENTITLED TO SUPPORT PAYMENTS FROM THE OTHER PARENT?
If you get married or remarry, you are still entitled to child support payments.
10. DO I HAVE TO REPORT CHILD SUPPORT AS INCOME TO THE INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE?
No. Child support payments are not taxable income according to the latest revisions of the Internal Revenue Code.
Jason C. Crump, Esq. is a founding member of the National Law Group (NLG) – the first and only Black-owned coalition of law firms that offers legal services to customers nationwide. To be legally represented for Child Support, Child Custody and other matters such as Divorce, Criminal Law, Personal Injury, and Medical Malpractice, call (866) 654-2727 or visit www.NLGattorneys.com or www.BlackLawyers.NET