Child support orders often come about in the context of a divorce, but in many ways, the legal issues involved in child support are different from the other issues in a divorce. Most issues in family law, such as property division, spousal support or even child custody, involve negotiation between two parties. In child support, the state is more deeply involved.
This is because, under Pennsylvania law, the obligation to pay child support stems from each parent’s obligation to pay for the raising of their child. The paying parent doesn’t make the payments to the other parent, they make the payments to the state. The state then distributes the money to the other parent to help with their child-raising costs.
In determining how much a parent must pay, the state uses a somewhat complex formula based on the child’s needs and the parent’s ability to pay. Parents can negotiate a greater payment between themselves, but they cannot legally absolve themselves of the obligation to pay for the support of their child.
When things change
People who have been through a divorce know that it involves a lot of work. A child support order is just one aspect of that work. With all that in mind, when parents establish a child support order, they are not eager to go back to court to change it.
But a lot of things can change. The paying parent’s income can change, affecting their ability to pay. The child’s needs can change, affecting the dollar amount needed to pay for their care.
When this happens, either parent may need to request a modification to the child custody order.
This can be especially important for paying parents, as they can get into financial and legal trouble if they fall behind on their payments.
Parents who need a change to their child support order can speak to an attorney about their options, and they should do so quickly, before it becomes a serious problem.