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The Basics of Child Support Services

A divorce may mark the end of a marriage, but it doesn't necessarily mark an end to a parent's legal obligations to his or her children and former partner. Child support law forces one parent to make regular payments to the other parent for a minor child's benefit. In the event that the former spouse defaults on these payments, there are a number of state offices of child support services that can ensure money is still received.

Child Support Law

According to, because of the increase in non-traditional families, issues related to child support, rights of parents and even the rights of those that who are not the parents have become much broader.

The most clear-cut scenario is when two parents divorce. According to child support law, courts are allowed to order non-custodial parents to pay child support. How child support is calculated, however, varies from state to state.

Courts can treat annulments differently. An annulment is a legal procedure that declares a marriage void. Unlike with divorces, not all states have laws that explicitly grant courts the power to award child support after an annulment. However, most courts do order child support payments to protect the child's rights.

For parents that who are unmarried, courts can order child support once the paternity of the child is confirmed. This is frequently done with a DNA test.

After a divorce, a step-parent has no legal obligation to pay child support. However, the step-parent may establish voluntary payments.

Child Support Services

Many states have offices established that handle child support services. For example, California has the Department of Child Support Services. These state departments provide child support services including providing child support law information, child support rights information and assistance with collecting child support payments.

To locate your state's child support services office, visit the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement website.

Hiring a Lawyer

If you are having difficulty collecting child support, it is advisable to seek legal representation. Your attorney can request the court to order your spouse to make payments. This is called a money judgment. Once a judgment is entered, additional action can take place, including wage garnishment. Wage garnishment is when money owed for child support is taken directly out of the parent's paycheck.

When hiring a lawyer, there are some key questions you should consider asking.

  • If you never married your child's parent, can you pay child support in a single, lump- sum payment?
  • If your former spouse is now re-marriedage, do you still have to pay child support?
  • If you are a step-parent, do you have to support your spouse's children from a previous marriage?