Child Support

Child support cases are typically brought by the Department of Revenue (Child Support Enforcement) on behalf of the custodial parent. Child support cases are heard before a hearing officer, and issues of visitation / timesharing, although relevant to determining the amount of child support, are not heard. 

It is important to consult with a family law attorney and respond to a child support lawsuit that has named you as the father, or the potential father, for many reasons, primarily:

If you fail to respond to the lawsuit, a child support order will be entered and you will be obligated to pay for that child until the child’s 18th birthday or longer. If you are not the father, or believe you are not the father, you must raise that defense during the proceedings. If you fail to respond to the lawsuit, or fail to raise this defense during the proceedings, you likely will be unable to raise this defense later and may not be able to set aside the final judgment once it is entered. 

Additionally, if you fail to respond to the lawsuit, the child support obligation may be calculated incorrectly. Child support is based primarily on the incomes of the parties, health insurance premiums paid, employment related child care expenses paid, prior child support obligations ordered and paid, and timesharing. If you are not present during the proceedings, or do not have an attorney to protect your interests, incorrect numbers may be used in the child support calculation, thus potentially obligating you to pay a higher child support amount.

Finally, if you are exercising timesharing with your child, but the timesharing has not been established as a court order, you will not receive credit for the timesharing. It is important to discuss the issue of visitation / timesharing with a family law attorney during your child support case.

Question:  I was served with a lawsuit for child support, what do I do?

Answer:  Most importantly, you must respond to the lawsuit. You have 20 days from the day you are deemed “served” to respond to the lawsuit. If you do not respond, a default may be entered against you and you will not have your day in court. It will not matter if you are not the child’s father, if you default, you will likely pay child support on that child until the child turns 18, or graduates high school.

Question:  What are my rights as a father?

Answer:  If you were never married to the child’s mother, and there was no prior paternity order establishing your rights (not to be confused with an order simply establishing a child support obligation), you have no legal rights as a father. A paternity case must be filed to establish your rights. This cannot be done in the child support case.

Question:  How is child support calculated?

Answer:  Child support is calculated based on the income of the parents, less certain deductions such as taxes, mandatory union dues, health insurance, employment related child care for the child at issue, and prior child support obligations ordered and paid. The number of court ordered overnights spent with the child may also used in the calculation.

Question:  Will the judge make my child’s mother let me see my child?

Answer:  In child support cases, the magistrate hears the case. The magistrate will not address the issue of timesharing or visitation with your child. The proper venue for determining or enforcing timesharing or visitation is through a paternity or enforcement action.

Question:  My child’s mother won’t let me see my child, can I stop paying my child support?

Answer:  No. If your child’s mother won’t let you see your child, you must file a paternity or enforcement action to obtain or enforce your rights.

Question:  How long do I have to pay child support?

Answer:  Usually until the child reaches the age of 18, or graduates from high school (if graduation is reasonably expected before the age of 19).

Question:  What happens if I don’t pay my child support?

Answer:  If you fail to pay your child support obligation, your wages or tax returns could be garnished, your driver license or professional licenses could be suspended, you could be ordered to pay the other parent’s attorney fees, or you could go to jail.

Question:  If I don’t pay my child support, will I go to jail?

Answer:  Possibly. 

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