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By Thea Theresa English

Understanding how child support works

Just because you and your ex are no longer together doesn't mean that he is off the hook for supporting the child you have together. Thankfully there is a legal route you can take to ensure that your child's needs will be met. This route is called child support and it is a certain amount that the non-custodial parent pays to the custodial parent for the child's benefit. If you are not married to the father of your child, he can voluntarily acknowledge paternity or he can request a paternity test to determine if he is the father. If the test proves his paternity, he will have to pay child support if you file for it.

What determines the amount of child support that I will receive?

In most states, the amount of child support that you'll receive would be based on your income and the income of the non-custodial parent. Sources of income that the court will evaluate to determine the amount of child support might include commissions, bonuses, workers' compensation benefits, and Social Security benefits in addition to the regular income of both parents. Keep in mind that your ex might not be completely honest about his earnings so it could be a good idea to hire an attorney if you think your ex will do this. Other factors include the child's quality of life before you and your ex's separation and any special expenses your child might have.

What happens if my ex refuses to pay child support?

Once the court sets the amount that will be paid, the non-custodial parent is required to pay. Some consequences of failure to pay child support include jail time, garnishment of wages, and suspension of the person's driver's license. If your ex is struggling with payments, he should go through the courts to have the order modified. Also remember that just because your ex is not timely with his payments, it is not legal to deny him visitation with the child. If your ex has stopped making payments, you can contact your state attorney general's office or the local child support enforcement agency.

Ways to budget your child support payments

If you receive regular child support payments, it's important to spend the money wisely for the benefit of your child. You can put some of the funds aside to set up a savings account for the child so that you'll have funds for emergencies. It also helps to create a budget for the child where you write down his monthly and weekly expenses. While doing this be sure to separate your child's wants from his needs, and use the child support funds mostly for his needs.

Why child support is important

Child support is important because all of the parental responsibilities should not fall on one parent and his or her extended family. Both the mother and father should do what is necessary to ensure that the child's needs are met. It is also important because there might be times when the custodial parent faces financial emergencies and the other parent's financial assistance can help.

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