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Facts about child support

Child support is an issue that is sometimes misunderstood. Texas parents may be interested in knowing some basic facts about it and how it can affect children and families.

Paternity must be established before a court can order a man to pay child support. While paternity of the husband is assumed in most states if the couple was married at the time of the child's birth, an unmarried mother must have it proven if the father does not voluntarily agree to it. The local child support enforcement office can be of assistance in this regard.

Both parents have the legal obligation to support their child. This requirement typically ends when the child reaches the age of 18, but there are some exceptions. After a divorce, the non-custodial parent will in most cases be ordered to pay support to the parent who has primary physical custody of the child. The amount is largely based upon state guidelines that take into account parental income and other factors.

If a parent who is obligated to pay child support fails to make payments or falls behind in payments, the legal ramifications might include wage garnishment, liens on property, garnishment of income tax refunds or even criminal prosecution in some cases. When payments are made through the office of child support enforcement, each parent has the benefit of an official record. Either the parent who is paying child support or the one who is receiving it could request that payments be made through such method.

If a parent who has been ordered to pay child support becomes unable to do so due to an unforeseen financial downturn, it would be advisable to obtain the help of an attorney in petitioning the court for a modification. This should be done as quickly as possible, as any change in the amount to be paid will be prospective only and will not affect any amounts that are in arrears.

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