Child Support Questions and Answers

If you have children, it's likely that you have child support questions concerning your situation, such as how child support is calculated, how long it lasts, and if visitation rights and child support are connected. 

By WomansDivorce | Answers by Brette Sember, J.D.

Since child support issues often come up during and after a divorce, the following questions may help you find the answers you need about your current situation. 

Can I Get Child Support? - Find out if you can get child support if you are separated or if it wasn't ordered in your divorce. Plus, learn what you can do if you don't want to file for it, and more.

How Child Support is Calculated? - Learn about what factors go into calculating child support and what else may be taken into consideration.

What Does Child Support Cover? - Find out what child support is supposed to be used for.

Temporary Child Support - Getting support established while the divorce is pending.

Filing for Child Support - Here are some of the things to think about when filing for support and what your options are.

Child Support Hearings - If your initial child support will be contested or later modified, you may be required to go to a child support hearing.

Who Pays for Childcare after Divorce - Can day care expenses be included in child support orders and how is re-imbursement handled?

Uninsured Medical Expenses and Child Support - Who is responsible for paying for the medical expenses that aren't covered by insurance? 

Who Provides Health Insurance on the Children? - Learn about which parent is responsible for coverage and how the premiums are split, what happens if coverage is dropped, and more.

Child Support and Educational Costs - Find out if the costs for primary and secondary schooling can be included in your child support order.

Child Support Questions about Extraordinary Expenses - Discover how expenses not covered by traditional support orders are handled.

Questions about Child Support Payments - Find out when child support payments start, if your ex can reduce the payments, and more.

Tips for Collecting Child Support - Learn how to insure that support payments are paid as ordered.

Child Support Modification - When can child support be changed and what effect will different factors have.

Questions about Child Custody and Support - Will the support obligation change if custody is changed? Also, find out if custodial grandparents or the non-custodial parent are entitled to support.

Joint Custody Child Support Questions - Find out how support will be affected if you and your ex share custody of the children.

Questions about Paternity and Child Support - Is a man liable for child support if his name isn't on the birth certificate or if a DNA test proves the child isn't his?

Remarriage and Child Support - How is child support affected if one of the parents remarries?

Stopping Child Support - Find out how to stop support payments, if a parent can stop child support without a court order, and more.

Taxes and Support Payments - Many women wonder if the support payments are taxable. Read the answer to this and other tax related issues.

When Does Child Support End - Find out what factors determine when child support will end.

Collecting Back Child Support - If your ex isn't paying according to the support orders, here is what you can do.

Can I Get Child Support?


Can I get support if we separated but never divorced?

Traci's Question: We were legally married (and still are) for 20+ years. I became disabled and decided to move to a ranch house to avoid stairs. During this time, he snuck his things to an apartment and he just never came back one day. We never legally separated. He quit his 5-6 figure job to avoid child support. A few months ago I found an unclaimed money account matching him on a website. Told him, did all leg work and verification and $25k was deposited in his account. Can I ask that he set aside 3k for each of our children since he's literally not regularly helped financially?

Brette's Answer: You can certainly ask that but he's not required to do anything unless a court orders him. You should meet with an attorney who can explain your rights to child support, alimony, and property division. You don't have to get a divorce to get child support or spousal support so even if you don't want to end the marriage, there is financial support available for you and your children. 

Can I get child support if I'm living with the father?

Ashley's Question: Can I still go for child support if I live with the father of my child?

Brette's Answer: Probably not if you're living together. If you get divorced or live apart, then you can file. Check with a lawyer though to learn what the rules are in your state.

Can I still file for child support even if I have other children?

Quinasta's Question: My husband and I have lived apart for 5 years. We both moved on and I couldn't afford a divorce. We have a seven year old who he doesn't even want to see. If I had another child, can I still file for child support for his son? Would he be able to ask for custody if I file?

Brette's Answer: Yes, you can still file for child support even if you have other children. Child support and custody are separate issues. To obtain child support, custody has to be determined first. If he wants to ask for custody, that would be his opportunity. It's unlikely he would win since he has had no contact with the child, however visitation is a possibility.

Will he owe child support for my unborn baby?

Donna's Question: What if I already have two children, with another on the way? Will my husband owe support on the baby that's not born yet?

Brette's Answer: Yes, it doesn't matter when the child is born (before, during or after marriage). If it's his, child support can be ordered. Good luck.

Should I ask for child support if he isn't helping with expenses?

Lori's Question: We have been separated for 2 1/2 years now. My daughter lives with me and my son lives with his dad. There has been no talk about child support as of yet. I don't have any problem with this arrangement if he stepped up as a father and took proper care of his kids. I seem to be buying my son groceries every week. I spend easily $60 in food just for him. I've tried talking to him, but he gets defensive and isn't willing to have an amicable conversation. Should I be asking him to pay me support?

Brette's Answer: It is much easier to get child support established and paid on a regular basis than to beg the father of your children for help with expenses. You will know how much money you can count on and he can budget to pay for it. It also eliminates any arguments about it.

Can I get child support if we weren't married?

Angel's Question: My husband and I had a ceremony but we were never legally married. After 14 years, I moved out and our 2.5 year old goes back and forth. Do I have any rights in terms of a financial settlement, child support etc...?

Brette's Answer: You are exactly one of the reasons why I wrote my new book, Unmarried with Children (from Adams Media). Yes you certainly have rights! Child support has nothing to do with marriage. Go to family court and ask for it. The financial settlement part is trickier. You can consider several things - if you can get him to go, a mediator can help you work out how to divide your joint assets. If not, you can go to regular civil court (small claims or a higher court depending on the amount of money) and ask that joint assets be divided.

Can I get child support if he didn't adopt my child?

Question: My daughter was 2 months old when my husband and I started dating. We were married for 13 years before I filled for a divorce. He has claimed her as his child on his income taxes the whole time we were married. Can I get child support for her?

Brette's Answer: No, not unless he adopted her.

Will he owe support if he gave my son from a prior marriage his last name?

Vanessa's Question: I legally have sole custody of my 1st born son, whom I had from a previous marriage. My husband has given my son his last name. We have legally changed his name with the courts. Will that make him legally liable to pay child support upon our divorce?

Brette's Answer: He would only be required to pay child support if he adopted your son and became a legal parent. 

Can I get child support from my second husband?

Michelle's Question: I'm currently receiving child support from my ex-husband. My new husband and I are now getting divorced. Can I get child support or maintenance from my new husband even if he didn't adopt my son?

Brette's Answer: You can get alimony or maintenance, but not child support if he is not the father.

What if he threatens to not pay child support if I leave?

Dee's Question: I would like to pack up and leave my alcoholic and verbally abusive husband. He has threatened that if I leave him he won't pay a dime in child support or spousal support. What should I do? Can I leave with my daughter and take our things with us, such as computer, furniture, clothes and games and toys (and also take some money from the bank for support)?

Brette's Answer: You should set up a consultation with a family law attorney who can discuss with you in detail how much child support and spousal support you would be entitled to. Your husband does not get to decide if he will pay it - if the court orders it he will have to pay it. You can take things with you when you leave, as well as a portion of the cash. Check with an attorney to find out how best to do this in your state.

Can I get child support if it wasn't part of the original divorce?

Amber's Question: My divorce was final two years ago, and I had primary custody in a 60/40 custody split (we swapped weeks). After he remarried, my daughter started living with me full time, with my ex taking her every other weekend. Since I did not seek child support when my divorce was filed, can I file for a modification and require him to help support his daughter?

Brette Answers: You can go to family court and request child support. You will probably need to modify your child custody plan as well to reflect the current status. Then child support can be based on that.

Can he request child support if it was waived in the divorce?

Elizabeth's Question: Our court divorce papers from 10 years ago state that I shall not be obligated to pay child support in exchange for waiving my interest in the residence. My ex recently divorced and is threatening to have our divorce papers modified for child support. I've been unemployed for over a year because of complications from surgery and am in the process of filing for disability. What are my rights, as I can no longer work?

Brette's Answer: Unless he can show some change in circumstances that merits any of this, he has no chance. Your financial situation would certainly be considered in his request for child support. Good luck.

Can I file for child support if our divorce said we had no children?

Fran's Question: Can I file for child support after a divorce is final? We had a verbal agreement on what he would pay, but he hasn't paid anything since the divorce. When I filed, I said we had no children together. That's why he signed. Is it possible to apply for support now or should I just let it go?

Brette's Answer: You perjured yourself by saying you have no children. You're going to need an attorney's help fixing this.

Can I get any support for taking care of my pregnant sister?

Question: I am 24 single living in a 1 bedroom flat. My 14 year old sister is pregnant and has nowhere else to go, so I am now looking after her. Am I entitled to anything? I am not working and have no children myself.

Brette's Answer: Not unless your parents sign over custody of her to you, then you could get child support. Otherwise, she is an emancipated minor. You should contact social services to find out her eligibility for welfare, food stamps, and WIC. She can also obtain child support from the father of her baby once it is born. Good luck.

What if I don't want him to pay child support?

Alexena's Question: My husband has spent some time in jail and rarely has any money. Can I divorce him and not require child support from him so that I'm free and clear of him?

Brette's Answer: It is not required that you include child support, however the judge may question your settlement if it does not contain it. By opting out of the child support guidelines, you have to provide reasons for why you are doing so and assure the court that the child will be adequately supported. In most cases, some child support is going to be part of the deal.

Filing for Child Support


Can I file a motion for child support on my own?

Maureen Asks: My soon to be ex-husband and I both signed a divorce settlement and still are waiting for the Judge to sign in 6 months from now. My lawyer never filed for a support order. Can I file child support motions on my own if my attorney doesn't return my phone calls?

Brette's Answer: Yes you can. You don't have to have an attorney. You should, however, let your attorney know so that you're not both doing the same thing.

Can I get back support if we never had support orders to start with?

Kris' Question: My ex and I split many years ago and the kids have lived with me. We didn't go to have custody and support filed. Is it possible to try for what would be back support now, even though it was never legally established?

Brette's Answer: To be clear, what you are asking for is called retroactive child support - child support from before the time a child support order was put into place. Back child support would be child support that was owed but never paid (called arrears). Retroactive child support in a case like yours would be unusual. You knew where the other parent was, had contact with him and yet never filed for support. You could however file for child support to start now. You can ask for retroactive child support, but it is a rarity in a situation like this.

Can I re-file for child support in my new state if it ended at 18 in the original order?

Crystal's Question: My husband and I divorced in Maryland. He stopped child support payments when our daughter turned 18 because that is Maryland law. I live in NY now, and NY state law states he has to pay child support until my daughter is 21 as long as she is in school, which she is. I was told that I would be able to "re-file" in NY and then it will be granted. Is this true?

Updated Answer: In 2001, the UNIFORM INTERSTATE FAMILY SUPPORT ACT (UIFSA) Section 611 was amended to make it clear that the duration of the child support obligation should be fixed by the initial controlling support order of the originating state. It also states that a registering tribunal can't establish a new support order after a child has reached the age specified under the duration of support laws of the state which issued the original order. Given this information, you won't be able to re-file if the original order states that child support ended at 18.

When serving child support papers, are they valid if left at your home?

CC's Question: My ex is trying to serve me with a petition to modify our child support order because I am moving out of state. The day I was moving, he sent an officer to my mother's home and waited to see if I was home. She told the officer I no longer lived there and the officer gave the papers to my mother and said if I do not go to court, I will go to jail. I have yet to be served personally. What can I do concerning this matter?

Brette's Answer: Playing games with service is generally a waste of time. At some point they will find you. Your state may have a provision that allows papers to be left at your home even if you are not there, so the service that occurred might be valid.

Can I withdraw my petition for child support?

Aida's Question: I filed for support, but now want to call it off. What happens if I don't go to the hearing?

Brette's Answer: You can withdraw your petition for child support. Call the court and find out what their procedure is. If you don't appear at the court appearance your petition will likely be dismissed by the court.

Is the parent still obligated to pay support if the petition is withdrawn?

Jaimie's Question: If a grandmother has initiated a law suit against a daughter for child support in the state of TN and it has gone to trial, can the grandmother later decide to drop the case and relinquish her claim to the child support? Would the daughter then no longer be liable for the payments?

Brette: It would be up to the judge, but you could notify the court you wish to withdraw the case.

Why do I have to file for child support if my child is getting Medicaid?

Mandee's Question: I am not working, but my mother is helping a lot and the father of my child does what he can to help. I do not want to file for child support, but the state is telling me in order for my daughter to get Medicaid, I must put her father on child support. I do not want to do. Is there any way I can avoid that while still getting her the medical help?

Brette's Answer: No. If you seek public benefits, the state can require you to assist in a child support case.

Do I need to file support papers if I don’t want the state to collect the support?

Micaela's Question: We are filing for divorce but we are on very good terms and I honestly do not want to file the child support papers with the court or attorney general’s office. I know payment will not be an issue as I will continue to have access to the bank accounts. Do I need to file with the court and attorney general’s office even if the court orders him to pay child support?

Brette's Answer: If you are asking about having the state collect child support payments, there is no detriment to you to do so and if there is ever an issue with payment or enforcement you have assistance. In many states if you both do not wish to have payments auto-deducted you can opt out by asking that this be removed from the order. You should check with your attorney to determine what the requirements in your state are. 

How do we do a one-time settlement for child support?

Nicky's Question: My ex and I want to do a one-time settlement for child support. How do I go about this?

Brette: You need to see an attorney. Most attorneys recommend against this since needs change and additional child support may need to be sought later.

Is more child support better than than having a separate alimony payment?

Question: During our separation, my lawyer encouraged me to agree to a higher amount of child support rather than having a separate alimony payment. Now we are considering divorce. I am wondering if it is prudent to keep the same arrangement, or ask for a separate alimony payment. I am worried that my husband will try to get my son to go live with him, as he has tried to do before, and that if he is successful, I will lose it all. How do I approach this situation?

Brette's Answer: There are pros and cons to the many different arrangements. Child support ends when your child ages out or if custody changes. Alimony does not. You can also consider lump sum alimony which is payment up front, or a larger property settlement.

Child Support Hearings


Should I re-file for child support if he wasn't at the hearing?

Erica's Question: We're separated and I recently filed for Child Support. Our court date was a month ago and he did not show. The judge said he could not look up his pay grade so I could receive child support because my husband had to be present. So the judge issued a warrant for his arrest. He may never be brought in unless he gets pulled over for a traffic violation. Should I file again?

Brette's Answer: If he doesn't appear, he is in default and you should be able to obtain an order against him, as long as he did actually receive notice of the proceedings. You need to find out if he was legally served. If not, service has to happen. If he was served, you need to make a motion for a default judgment.

Will a phone conference be okay for a child support hearing in another state?

Carol's Question: I have filed for child support. The father lives in another state and has to appear before the judge. I was not ordered to be there, but wanted to be to make sure he does not talk his way out of paying child support. I set up a phone conference, so I could speak. My question is should I go there instead of doing a phone conference?

Brette's Answer: A phone conference is probably easier for you. There are some advantages to being there in person, but phone conferences are a good substitute.

How can I get a postponement of the child support modification hearing?

Miriam's Question: I received a petition for modification of an order of support made by the Family Court. I need to get the date of appearance postponed. How do I go about doing this?

Brette's Answer: Call the family court and request a postponement.

Will we need to go to trial if we can't agree to the modification?

Linda's Question: In the divorce decree it says that I will not receive child support until the marital house is sold. That was based on us living together until it sold and sharing the costs for our one child. Well the house didn't sell. I left and filed bankruptcy and he abandoned the marital home. I never received a dime from my ex for any financial support for our son who lives with me full time. I am filing a petition for modification to child support due to these substantial circumstances. I am representing myself. If his lawyer disputes, is the next step trial?

Brette's Answer: Yes. If a settlement can't be reached, a trial will be scheduled. Most things settle and in this case there's a good chance there will be a settlement since obviously the terms of the decree cannot be carried out. You can also seek a modification to the financial settlement since you're not benefiting from the sale of the house.

Do we still need to go to child support court if we ended up getting married?

Jolynne's Question: My husband and I have been subpoenaed to child support court. Now that we are married and our children receive no Federal aid, do we still have to go to the court date? Or will they just dismiss/close the case?

Brette's Answer: You must always appear for a subpoena or you will be in contempt of court. If the court date is canceled you will be notified (you can also call to check).

What if I no longer live in the state where the support hearing will be?

AS's Question: My husband and I divorced 2 years ago and in February of this year, I moved out of state. He wasn't happy about it but didn't try to stop me either. Now my ex wants me to go back home for a child support hearing. I never let the court know we moved, but my ex knew and has spoken to kids several times. Am I in trouble and should I move back to ex's state.

Brette's Answer: No. He essentially consented to the move. I recommend talking to an attorney about having the child support case moved to your new state.

What if the judge hasn't given her decision on child support after six months?

Alexa's Question: I got a child support order because he never paid and the day he got it, he filed a counter suit to erase the arrears. We went to court for this (for a year) and had a trial. The judge finally said she would make her decision in 30 days and would send the new order. However its now been 6 months and still no answer. What can I do other than ask the court for an answer (I'm afraid I might anger the judge).

Brette's Answer: Call the court and ask the status of the case. Explain that it is has been 6 months and you were told there would be a decision in 30 days. It sounds like there was some kind of error and the case got misplaced.

Child Support Questions Regarding Custody


How will it affect child support if one child lives with each of us?

Jessica's Question: I have two children with court ordered child support from 8 years ago. My ex now wants my 10 year old to move in with him and have primary custody changed over. Our 12 year old daughter doesn't want to go and will be living with me. How will this affect the child support? He says it's a wash and he doesn't have to pay anymore.

Brette's Answer: It depends on your respective incomes. If one child lives with one parent and the other with the other parent, child support for each will be calculated then offset. Basically whoever earns less or has more allowable expenses will receive a small amount of child support, unless your incomes are very different, then it could be a large amount. You should see an attorney who can help you calculate how it will work in your state.

Will I have to pay child support if he gets full custody?

Alice's Question: If my husband filed for full custody of our children, will I end up having to pay child support?

Brette's Answer: If he is granted physical residence of the children, then he is eligible to seek child support from you.

What are my chances of getting custody if I owe back support?

Crystal's Question: What are my chances of getting custody of my children if I owe a little back support?

Brette's Answer: Support and custody are two separate issues; however that doesn't mean a judge might not have it in the back of his mind. Custody is determined based on the best interests of the children.

Can the non-custodial parent get child support?

Julie's Question: If father has primary residency and mother has weekend supervised visitation, does he have to pay if the mother files for child support?

Brette's Answer: Child support is payable to the parent with primary custody, in this case, the father. The mother would not be eligible to receive it.

Will I owe less support if the kids spend more time with me?

M's Question: I was working evenings when we got divorced, and only had two days off. My husband had most of the overnights, so they made me pay child support because of this. My schedule has changed and my kids are with me pretty much all the time, except for weekends. I have 3 days with them, their father has them the other 4. What can I do? My ex makes more money than me, yet I'm stuck with the child support. I owe backed child support because I can't afford it with my income.

Brette's Answer: You could seek to modify the custody arrangement since you have a different schedule and then child support from that point on could be modified.

What happens to support when the child changes residence?

Lauri's Question: My son now age 19, moved in with me this weekend. I pay $700 per month to his father for child support. I'm required to pay until the age of 21, but do I still have to pay now that he lives with me?

Brette's Answer: No, you should get the order modified to reflect the living arrangements. You first need to file for a modification of the custody order, and then you file to modify child support. You can seek to have your child support payments ended and also ask that he pay you child support for your child.

Can support be terminated if our son goes to live with his Dad?

Cheryl's Question: We have joint legal and physical custody and he pays child support. My youngest child is now 17 and currently living with his dad. He wants to remain there because he has more freedom and material things. He still visits me and stays overnight. My ex is now trying to get the child support terminated since our son lives with him. I never gave permission to break the 50/50 rule. Does this mean he can stop paying me because he provides most of the support?

Brette's Answer: If your child no longer lives with you, child support can be adjusted to reflect that, and you may have to pay him support.

Does my dad still have to pay support if I live with him?

Alex's Question: I came across this site by Google and decided it'd be the best way to ask, as there isn't much information out there! I'm now 15 and had custody recently changed to my father because me and my mom don't get along at all. Does my dad still have to pay support? Also, is there any way to avoid visitation? She was horrible when raising my sister and my sister had to go through counseling for alcohol abuse. I just really don't want to spend another second here and want out! What can I do?

Brette's Answer: If you're living with your dad, your dad should seek to modify child support so he no longer has to pay it. If you don't want to visit your mom, you're reaching an age where no one is going to force you to go. What would be a really good idea however is for you and your mom to go to counseling together. Maybe she could change the way she behaves and maybe you find a way to have a relationship. Good luck.

Why is child support so much if I don't even get to see my child?

Judy's Question: Earlier this year I became very sick, as I have a chronic disease. My Dr. recommended extended rest and that my teenage daughter live with her father. He got full custody and I now have visitation. I was told by both our attorneys I now need to pay child support (I do not work; I do receive alimony). My daughter refuses to see me or talk with me. I realize child support and visitation are separate items, I just have no idea how or why I am paying this monthly amount, with no contact.

Brette's Answer: Child support and visitation are not directly related. Most non-custodial parents are required to pay some type of child support and most states have a set minimum amount that applies even to those who are disabled or unemployed. You are paying child support because it is a parent's responsibility to financially support a child. If you are not getting your visitation, you can seek to have the order enforced. If you feel the amount of child support is too high you can ask to have it modified.

Can he file for custody because I filed for child support?

Devon's Question: The father of my child has been absent throughout my entire pregnancy and even now that my daughter is two months old. If I file for child support does that mean he can file to have joint custody? He has many warrants for his arrest and he is fleeing from the law right now. He is not on the birth certificate but I really need help financially. How can I make it so he pays support but has no rights or visitations to my child?

Brette's Answer: He could bring a paternity/custody suit on his own at any time, but if you institute a child support case, he can also ask for custody/visitation. This will be determined based on the best interest of the child. It sounds like he is in a bad situation and no court would give him custody, although somewhere along the line, visitation is possible, but not until he resolves his legal issues and then you would have a strong case for supervised visitation if it is going to be ordered at all.

Will my child support case be affected if he files for custody

Randi's Question: I recently had my ex served with papers for modification of child support. In return, he served me with papers trying to get full custody of our daughter because he doesn't want to pay the child support. He is military and is deployed 1-2 times a year for several months. He already has a preliminary hearing date, but I don't have a date for my case yet. Will any of this affect my child support case?

Brette's Answer: It's likely the court will postpone the child support case until the custody issue is resolved - although you could ask for a temporary order increasing it while the custody case is pending. It sounds like you've got a good case for custody though, and once you get that taken care of you can move ahead with the child support issue.

Can he get custody changed so that he doesn't have to pay support?

Alison's Question: I have just sought to have child support collect the correct maintenance for my son of 15. I have had sole custody of my son since he was 1 and have managed financially ever since (with my ex never paying the correct maintenance). After being contacted by Child Support Services, my ex said he would leave the country or go for sole custody. He spoke to my son about it and my son does not want to go to court or have his father leave the country. What should I expect?

Brette's Answer: Your son should not even be involved in this. Your ex was ordered to pay a certain amount. If he doesn't pay, enforcement proceedings will take place. Courts always see through the ruse of someone trying for a change in custody to avoid child support.

Can I ask for a custody change so I don't have to pay support?

Carolyn's Question: My ex and I were separated for 3 years. He is military and my 2 children live on base with him. I did not take them with me because I could not afford to support them at the time, as well as the fact that I felt that taking them away from their home and friends would be even harder on them. In the decree, we have joint conservatorship, but they live with him. I have been ordered to pay child support, which I cannot afford. Can I modify the order so that the kids live with me and he has to pay child support? Or would I be better off trying to get the support lowered? My ex told me that if I would sign over my rights to 1/2 his retirement we could work something agreeable out.

Brette's Answer: You can seek a change in custody based on a change in circumstances. You will need to show that a change is in the best interests of the children. If you win custody, then child support will be changed. I think that you need to decide if you want your children to live with you. You shouldn't seek custody simply to get out of paying child support. If they live with you, your expenses will increase at least that amount - it's certainly not a savings to get custody.

If you are still married and your divorce is not final, you can work out your own deal exchanging an asset for child support -- however a court will never approve an out and out agreement for this. Despite this, people make these kinds of deals all the time when they negotiate settlements. If you are already divorced (you weren't clear about this), there is no way to make this exchange. If you transfer an asset to him it is a taxable event, unless it falls under gift tax.

What if he lied to CSE about custody to get support changed?

Cheryl's Question: The judge in superior court would not change the child support order for the father. He went to the local child support office and told them he has custody (which he doesn't) and they changed the order. Can they do that?

Brette's Answer: None of that makes sense since custody is a matter of record - it can be checked. At the very least they should have asked to see the order. You need to contact them and show them the custody order.

Do I still have to pay child support if my ex's spouse adopts my child?

Jen's Question: If my ex's spouse adopts my son, do I still owe my ex-husband child support?

Brette's Answer: No. If your child is adopted and you are no longer a legal parent, you no longer pay child support. You also give up all rights to having any relationship with your child.

Can a grandparent get child support if they are the major care taker?

Linda's Question: My daughter is getting a divorce. They have agreed each will have the children 2 days and nights a week. I am the grandparent and have watched the children 3 nights a week since they were born. Since I keep them 3 nights a week and drive them to and from school and feed them, am I deserving of child support from the father and/or both of them? They both make the same amount of money, therefore my daughter is not requesting child support.

Brette's Answer: I'm disturbed by this arrangement since you actually have more time with the children than anyone else. To get support, you would need to first establish what is happening in terms of custody via a custody order that actually gives you some custodial rights.

Can I get child support for my adopted grandchildren if I divorce?

Grace's Question: I've had legal custody of my three grandchildren for the last 3 years, and now my husband of 10 years is divorcing me. Can he be responsible for paying child support for our three grandchildren?

Brette's Answer: No. They are not his children. You can however seek support from the legal parents of your grandchildren.

Will I have to pay support to the custodial grandparent?

Sheila's Question: About 7 years ago I decided to let my son live with his grandparents because I couldn't take care of him. When we went to court, his grandmother was granted sole physical custody. I do get my son every weekend and more in the summer and I also get him the things he needs. Now she is taking me to court for child support. Can she get child support from me?

Brette's Answer: Yes, she is entitled to child support since she is the custodial grandparent.

Educational Costs and Child Support


Can he be required to pay half of the school tuition?

Trina's Question: My son goes to a private school. Can I have my ex pay 1/2 of tuition in addition to child support?

Brette's Answer: You can request it as an educational expense.

Am I forced to pay for private schooling if I don't agree?

Carla's Question: I want to take our 2 preschoolers out of private school and enroll them into our assigned public elementary school instead.  If my husband does not agree, am I forced to pay for private school or would he have to pay for this himself?

Brette: It depends on how your child support order is written. He could also contest your decision to do this and ask the court to decide where they should go to school. 

Does he still have to pay tuition if she goes to a different school?

Teresa's Question: If the divorce papers read Husband shall pay tuition fees and ballet fees at a specific school, does he still not have to pay if she changes schools?

Brette's Answer: I would suggest getting your order updated to remove the school name and just specify what he is responsible for paying in terms of tuition and lessons.

Can he stop paying me the tuition amount once they leave private school?

Mary's Question: My ex and I have 50/50 time with our two girls. He makes a lot more money than I do and the agreement states that he pays to keep the girls in the private school they’ve attended since preschool. Both girls will be graduating from the school next fall and going to public school. Their father doesn’t think he should have to continue paying me the tuition amount once they leave private school. As it is, he only pays a small fraction of what the legal payment scale requires since he’s been making up the difference in tuition. Can he get away with this?

Brette's Answer: If the order states he is to pay for school he's obligated to do that, but if there is no tuition it would seem he wouldn't owe the money, but you need an attorney to review that order with you and interpret it. You should talk to an attorney about asking for an increase in child support if you feel it's not enough.

Is the cost of the Driver's Ed class covered by child support?

Laura's Question: My ex provides child support each week and has for the past 10 years. Our oldest daughter needs to go through a $600 driver's education course to get her license. I believe, since this expense is outside the normal care costs, should be split between us. He feels his child support payments cover it. Who is right?

Brette's Answer: If your order says you are to share educational costs this would be covered under that. If it doesn't, then it is outside of the order. You could seek to have the order modified. Good luck.

Should I include a provision for college expenses?

Kara's Question: I was told by many people to never forget to ask about "college" and/or Future Education costs for the future for our daughter who is now 4yrs old. I know it's a LONG ways away, but why would I want to have to open up this case again just to get some money out of him in the future? My lawyer says that this thinking is VERY PREMATURE and I shouldn't even be thinking about that.

Brette's Answer: As for college, it is difficult to predict what your financial situations are going to be 14 years from now. You can insert a provision saying college costs will be shared and determined at a later date. If your daughter ends up going to Harvard, you don't want to commit today to paying 50% of that b/c it's unlikely you could afford it. But if she goes to a community college, it would be very doable for you to contribute.

Can child support be changed to include college?

Julie: In our divorce agreement it says he is only responsible to pay support until our son is 18. How can I go about getting money from him for college?

Brette's Answer: File for a modification of support. Good luck.

Can I sue for 1/2 of college expenses based on a verbal agreement?

Chris' Question: My ex and I had a verbal agreement that he would pay for half of our boys college expenses. When our younger son moved in with his Dad and wife at 17 she refused to pay for any of the first son's college expenses stating that they were going to have "to support this kid while he lives on our sofa and does nothing." He ended up moving out after 4 months. Can I sue for 1/2 of college expenses based on a verbal agreement?

Brette's Answer: You don't have a court order for this, so no; family court would have nothing to go on.

Can I get paid back for last year's college expenses if he didn't pay?

Robin's Question: My ex was court ordered to pay 1/2 of college expenses for our twins and they start their 2nd year of college in 2 months. When I file for contempt, can I get reimbursed for the amount for last year? Also my youngest is in private high school due to autism diagnosed after the divorce. Is he responsible for these school expenses as well?

Brette's Answer: He is responsible for 1/2 of all college expenses if that is what your order says, so that would include last year. If you do not have an order about high school, you can seek a modification asking for payments for that as well.

Can a child petition to enforce the support agreement regarding tuition?

Elyse's Question: My Mom and Dad have been divorced for about 7 years now. In their agreement it states he must pay for 8 semesters of school for my sister and me. He has only paid a small amount because he gets angry at me and feels like I'm not worth paying since I cannot attend full time. He has also stopped paying for my sister now and we have decided we'd like to take him to court. How should we go about this?

Brette's Answer: Your mother has to be the one to enforce the order. She can file a violation/enforcement petition. Good luck.

What can I do if he closed the college plan account?

Sarah's Question: In our court order my ex-husband and I both pay equally into a college plan for our kids with my half of the payment being taken out of my check and sent to my ex-husband who is responsible for the payments made monthly. He has since informed me he has liquidated the accounts for our kids and is "keeping track" of how much should be in them and will give them the money when they start college. The order states it is to be in an account. What are my options?

Brette's Answer: File for a violation of the support order with the court.

Extraordinary expenses and child support


Does paying support release him from paying for other expenses?

Janine's Question: If my ex pays child support, does it dismiss his responsibility to contribute 1/2 the cost for "extra" big ticket items such as: first car, driver's training, band camp, etc.? I am on public assistance, but my ex refuses to help with the expenses of these larger items. He cites his monthly child support payments for his reason to be excluded from these expenses.

Brette's Answer: It depends on what the child support order says. Generally the parent paying child support is required to pay only the specified monthly amount, unless the order specifically says that other expenses are to be divided by the parents. If your order does not specify, you can file for a modification to include these items.

Shouldn't the extraordinary expenses be split between the parents?

Julie's Question: My fiancé pays more than twice the standard support because the mom stated the children required additional money, and she was the one who they spend most of their time with. In the decree it states "this Court must state findings in support of a deviation from the presumed guidelines the Court finds that the physical, medical, educational and extracurricular needs and activities of the children require additional expenses incurred by the Plaintiff". Their daughter participates in high school rodeos, which the mother refuses to pay anything towards. My fiancé ends up spending an additional $300 - $500 a weekend for rodeo expenses. Shouldn't some of this expense be included under "extracurricular needs"?

Brette's Answer: Yes, I agree with you.

Can support be adjusted to cover extracurricular activities?

Rachel's Question: My work hours were recently reduced and I'm making 20% less salary. I want to bring my ex back to court for the children's extracurricular activities (dance, cheerleading, little league, etc.). My ex is claiming he cannot afford the extras. Do I have a case?

Brette's Answer: You can definitely ask. The court will consider both financial pictures and adjust child support accordingly.

Do I have to pay for half the activity if I didn't agree to it?

Kenee's Question: My ex is demanding that I pay for our sons motocross bike (that he bought and keeps), race entry fees, and parts and service. I have never been asked or agreed to support motocross racing (too dangerous!) Anyway, this is what our decree states word for word. "The parties agree to pay one-half of any costs associated with the extracurricular activities of the parties' minor child of which the parties **AGREE** to allow their son to participate." Am I right in thinking it is not my responsibility to pay for these things?

Brette's Answer: Generally, if your ex enrolls your child in something without your input, it would seem he would be responsible for that cost. That is how I would read that provision, but a court could interpret it differently.

What if he won't pay his 50% of the extraordinary expenses?

Kathy's Question: Our divorce papers say he is liable for 50% of all extraordinary expenses. We've been divorced over 18 months and he hasn't paid a dime. I send him monthly invoices to show where the money goes - sports, school supplies, etc. How do I collect on that?

Brette's Answer: File with the court for enforcement/violation.

Is a child's car insurance included in child support?

Mary Anne's Question: Is a child's car insurance included in child support? My ex refuses to help pay for her insurance because he says it is included in child support. She needs the car to drive to college.

Brette's Answer: He would not be required to pay for this unless the court order specified so. You can seek to modify to include it.

Remarriage and Child Support Questions


Will his new marriage affect the amount of support?

Tahisha's Question: My ex-husband is getting remarried. We have three children (9, 8 &3). The court ordered him to pay child support and alimony. Would this change?

Brette's Answer: Your spouse's remarriage should have no effect on your current situation.

Am I obligated to pay him child support after he remarries?

Ashley's Question: How does re-marriage affect child support? For instance, I pay child support and my ex gets married to another person, am I still obligated to pay child support since I am single and only have one income as opposed to my ex being married and having essentially two incomes?

Brette: Child support can be readjusted due to a change in household income, but it likely won't be eliminated.

Will I still receive child support payments if I remarry?

Lynette's Question: Currently I receive child support for my two children from their father. I am due to get married soon and want to know am I still entitled to continue receiving my child support?

Brette's Answer: Yes

Will my remarriage be a qualifying event to modify child support?

Ashley's Question: Can my ex use my marriage to another man as a qualifying event to modify child support?

Brette's Answer: Yes, because your household income has changed.

Can child support be based on my new spouse's income?

Jennifer's Question: After our divorce, my son lived with me for 7 years, and I went for about 16 months with no child support. Two years ago, my son chose to live with his father. My ex is now threatening to enforce that my current husband pay child support based on his salary. Is this possible?

Brette's Answer: Your current husband has no legal obligation to support your son from a previous marriage. You are the only one who has that legal obligation. His income, though, is part of the household income. The court will follow your state laws in calculating child support based on these numbers.

Is the spouse of a non-custodial parent required to pay support?

Kay's Question: Under what circumstances is the spouse of the non-custodial parent required to pay? I do not want to be responsible, liable, or have any share in paying his child support responsibilities.

Brette's Answer: The parent of the children is the one who is legally liable to pay the support. His household income is calculated when determining child support. That may include income brought in by his spouse. However the order for payment applies only to him. You have no responsibility to his child, but marital assets can be attached if he becomes delinquent on child support.

Stopping Child Support


Can child support be stopped at the request of the custodial parent?

Debbie's Question: If there is an active order, can the custodial parent ask to have child support discontinued?

Brette's Answer: Call the office of child support enforcement and ask them if you can't afford an attorney. In most states you can opt out of child support with court approval.

Can I stop the child support if he willingly pays more than required?

Jessica's Question: If my ex and I are working out our issues and he is taking full responsibility for the 2 girls, can I stop the child support? At this time he is doing way more than his support amount.

Brette's Answer: A child support is a nice order to have in place in case you ever stop cooperating. The order will always allow you to collect that basic amount, and never have to worry about it. I suggest you talk to your attorney before doing anything.

Can I cancel the child support if I'm on public assistance?

Nerissa's Question: I'm currently separated from my husband. I applied for public assistance since I am in school and don't work. He wants me to cancel the child support order, saying that he will give me the money directly. How would I go about doing this, and will it affect my public assistance?

Brette's Answer: Generally if you are on public assistance, you cannot usually end child support. You should talk with your caseworker about this.

Does a parent have to pay support if there is no visitation or contact?

Kim's Question: My husband gave his ex-wife sole custody and has not had any contact or seen his daughter in almost 4 years. She told my husband she was going to have her husband adopt the child but refuses to give up the support. If you have no visitation or contact with your children do you still need to pay support?

Brette's Answer: Yes, you do. If the child is adopted then support would end.

Can I stop child support if my kids want nothing to do with me?

Mary's Question: My children are 18 and 20. They have nothing to do with me, ignore every card, gift, letter or gesture I make towards them. The father has never complied with any court orders. One child hasn’t spoken to me in four years. Can I end child support to these people who clearly want nothing to do with me?

Brette's Answer: You can seek to modify the order in court but you can't just stop paying or you will be in contempt of court.

Can he stop paying child support without going to court?

Susan's Question: Can my ex-husband stop paying his child support if he takes a leave of absence from his job without having the court modify it?

Brette's Answer: No. Child support is payable unless and until the court modifies it.

Can he stop support if she lives with him during the school year?

Dawn's Question: My daughter wants to go live with her dad for one school year and then come back. In the divorce I was awarded custody and do receive support from him. Could he stop paying support while she lives with him during that temporary time?

Brette's Answer: Yes he could seek a modification.

Is he still obligated if the child support orders weren't cancelled?

Sharon's Question: I remarried the father of my daughter. We lived together for only four months and then separated. Will he still be obligated to pay support if the court order was never cancelled?

Brette's Answer: Unless he seeks to have it modified, it will still be in force.

Child Support Questions About Taxes

Can my ex withhold child support funds to pay past due taxes?

Susan's Question: Can my ex withhold and use child support funds to pay past due taxes on the marital home? I live in and own the marital home as ordered in the divorce. He is still on the mortgage. The property taxes are paid to the town not the mortgage company. I have fallen behind on the taxes and he has been withholding my child support and forwarding it to the town for tax payments.

Brette's Answer: No. Child support is payable only to you (or the state child support collection agency). You can have the court enforce the order.

Is the amount of child support affected if we file our taxes jointly?

Chris's Question: My husband and I are currently separated, and he has been ordered to pay child support. We did try to reconcile last year and he talked me into filing a joint tax return. Will that affect the child support order?

Brette's Answer: No. Your child support order is in effect even if you file a joint tax return or temporarily reconcile.

Is child support taxable?

Question: Do I need to pay taxes on received child support?

Brette's Answer: Child support is not taxable income.

Can I get separate child support and alimony payments due to taxes?

Heidi's Question: My child support and alimony are paid together in one payment every month. I am being heavily taxed on this payment. Is there a way so I can separate the two payments without going to court or do I have to file a motion to do so? I feel that I should only be taxed on the alimony not child support.

Brette's Answer: Child support is not taxable income. If you are being paid through the state collection department, you should contact them and ask them to correct this. If your order does not separate the two payments out, you'll need to talk with your attorney to get it changed.

Can he amend his taxes to change the child support to maintenance?

Kerri's Question: My ex is threatening to amend his taxes and change child support payments to maintenance to make it taxable for me Can he do this?

Brette's Answer: It's not up to him to decide what is tax deductible and taxable. It's governed by how the payments are described in your decree. What he does with his taxes does not affect yours. (Update: Alimony payments in divorces finalized after 2019 are no longer tax deductible or taxable)

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