When parents are not living together, the parent who is primarily raising the children (the custodial parent) can file for child support against the other parent (the non-custodial parent). Depending on the state, you may have the option of filing in court or through your state’s governmental child support enforcement unit. In some states and under certain circumstances, you may be required to file for child support with the involvement of your state’s child support enforcement unit. A child support order can be issued even if there is no formal court order of custody. Note: If paternity has not been established, it is possible that it can be established as part of the child support action. However, there can be pros and cons to establishing paternity, which you may want to discuss with a lawyer.
The amount of child support that will be ordered is generally based on a mathematical formula, which takes into account the number of children being supported, the income of both parents, the children’s expenses, and many other factors. You can usually find these “child support guidelines” on your state’s child support enforcement unit website.
You can find state-specific information about child support on WomensLaw.org for the states listed in the drop-down menu above.