DEFINITION of Child Support

When children are involved in a divorce, custody and child support are two of the biggest issues for the parents and/or judge to consider.

In many cases, custody is shared jointly 50/50 between two parties. Sometimes when abuse or substance abuse are involved, the healthy parent is granted sole custody with supervised visits allowed for the spouse on an agreed-upon schedule, or some other arrangement.


The parent who has the children for more than 50 percent of the time is eligible to receive child support if he or she is not able to provide basic needs without financial help. The amount is also based on how much the non-custodial parent can afford. Monthly payments begin after the final divorce decree and continue until a child reaches 18 years of age.

Of course, having a judge order child support doesn’t guarantee that the custodial parent will actually receive any checks. A spouse might simply refuse to pay, in which case you’ll need to get child support papers from the judge. If that still doesn’t work, the following actions are warranted:

  • Hold him in contempt of court
  • Get his wages garnished
  • Intercept tax refunds
  • Have his professional or driver’s license suspended
  • Pursue liens and judgments
  • File felony criminal charges against him

In some cases, there may be a question about paternity. If the father’s name is not listed on a child’s birth certificate, paternity will need to be determined via a DNA test. A judge will only order child support if paternity is established.

Child support differs from alimony in that it is not tax deductible by the payer and tax-free to the recipient. Child support is only paid until a child reaches the age of maturity, while alimony payments may continue.