Child support is an arrangement where a non-custodial parent makes monthly payments to the child’s legal guardian. The payments go towards the child’s needs, including food, shelter, medical services, transportation, and even entertainment. Child support usually lasts until the child turns 18 or graduates high school.

Key Terms to Know

Custody: Refers to the child’s legal guardian. In some cases, two people will share custody.

Paternity: Paternity is fatherhood. If there is any doubt about the biological father of a child, the court may order a DNA test to establish paternity. The results will play a role in determining who is responsible for paying child support.

Child support services: Refers to the state or local office responsible for regulating and enforcing child support.

Calculating Child Support

Each state has its own child support regulations. Oftentimes, the amount depends on factors such as each parent’s income, the age of the children, and how many children are involved. You can find child support calculators online that will give you a ballpark idea of how much support you or the other parent will have to pay.

Most states use one of three models to decide how much money the non-custodial parent needs to pay:

  1. Income Shares Model: Determines how much money would go toward a child if both parents still lived together.
  2. Percentage of Income Model: Uses the non-custodial parent’s income to determine how much money the custodial parent receives.
  3. Melson Formula: Makes sure that each parent can meet his or her own needs in addition to supporting the child.
Enforcing Child Support

If someone is not paying child support, the court will usually have to compel payment. Courts have several options to get the money from the delinquent spouse. In some cases, a court orders the non-custodial parent’s employer to withhold child support from the parent’s pay and send it to the local child support services offices. In other cases, the government may withhold tax refunds, establish property liens, or take other measures.

Hiring a Child Support Lawyer

Sometimes, a child’s parents can reach an agreement outside of court through a mediator. However, a lawyer who knows local child support regulations can still help ensure that a case’s outcome does not place an undue burden on either of the parents. The question “what is child support” has a simple answer, but child support cases can often become complicated. If you are facing child support issues, hiring a lawyer and knowing the basic process can equip you for the road ahead. [1]

This case was not handled by our firm. However, if you have any questions regarding this case, or any family matter, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at