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Child Support

how do you calculate child support payments

Child support is the amount of money that a court orders a parent or both parents to pay every month to help pay for the support of the child (or children) and the child’s living expenses.

Every county has a family law facilitator who will help you for free to:
  • Prepare forms;
  • Explain court procedures for getting and changing child support orders;
  • Calculate child support using the guideline, if you have the necessary financial information; and
  • Explain how the court makes child support decisions.

Every county also has a local child support agency to help you get, change, and collect child support at no charge. Learn more about the local child support agency and find the local child support agency in your county.

You can also find more information at Parent Guide to Separation and Divorce - Child Support. which explains parents’ child support responsibilities. It describes how to figure out what a parent should pay or expect to receive, as well as how to calculate other types of expenses. You will also find links to services that can help you and other types of resources.

How Child Support Starts

Each parent is equally responsible for providing for the financial needs of his or her child. But the court cannot enforce this obligation until it makes an order for support. When parents separate, a parent must ask the court to make an order establishing parentage (paternity) and also ask the court to make an order for child support.

Child support payments are usually made until children turn 18 (or 19 if they are still in high school full time, living at home, and cannot support themselves).

Either parent can ask the judge to make a child support order as part of one of these types of cases:

  • Divorce,

    legal separation, or annulment (for parents who are married or in a registered domestic partnership);

  • A Petition to Establish Parental Relationship (for unmarried parents);
  • A domestic violence restraining order (for married or unmarried parents);
  • A Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children (for parents who have signed a voluntary Declaration of Paternity OR are married, or registered domestic partners, and do not want to get legally separated or divorced )
  • Find out more on how to ask for child support in 1 of these types of court cases. Either parent can later ask the judge to change the support amount if the situation changes. Find out more about changing a child support order.

    Child support can also be ordered as part of a case filed by the local child support agency (LCSA), which is the local government agency located in each county that provides services to establish parentage and establish and enforce child support orders. Here is how:

    • If 1 of the parents has been getting public assistance (like TANF -Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), the LCSA automatically files a child support case against the noncustodial parent. The case also includes as a party the custodial parent that is receiving public assistance.
  • Either parent can ask the LCSA to provide child support services, which will then start a child support case.
  • If a child is in foster care, the LCSA may start a child support case against 1 or both parents.
  • Either parent can ask the LCSA to take over enforcement of a child support order in a family law case (like a divorce or parentage case).
  • Find out more about the local child support agency and the Department of Child Support Services.

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