Biological and adoptive parents have a responsibility to support their children financially and provide for their needs. This remains true regardless of whether or not you and the child’s other parent remain together. If you split from your co-parent, you may have the right to collect support payments from the other parent on your child’s behalf. An enforceable child support order requires the court’s involvement.
For this reason, there is a legal process you may have to go through to obtain child support. Here is a general step-by-step description of the process.
1. Decide Whether To Hire a Lawyer or Find a Child Support Agency
You do not necessarily need a lawyer to file for child support. Your state has child support agencies that are set up specifically to help you, usually for a nominal fee. However, there are situations when it may be better to hire an attorney. Child support agencies cannot help you with other family law matters, so if you have other legal difficulties regarding your co-parent, you may benefit from hiring an attorney.
2. Establish Paternity
The legal fatherhood of a child may be questioned in a way that maternity is not. Nevertheless, it is essential to establish this in a child support case if there is any doubt. It goes without saying that if you are a father seeking child support or custody, you first have to establish your parental rights regarding the child. However, if you are a mother seeking child support, it is also necessary to establish paternity because you usually cannot demand support from someone who is not the child’s biological father.
3. Locate the Other Parent
You cannot demand child support from someone you cannot find. If you do not know the location of your co-parent, this is another situation in which hiring an attorney may be beneficial, because he or she can engage the services of a private investigator on your behalf.
4. Request a Court Order
Technically, this step is not required. You have the option of entering into a less formal child support agreement with your spouse that is not legally binding. However, if you have any concern that your co-parent may not live up to his or her child support obligation, it is better to obtain a court order. In that case, you have legal recourse if your co-parent does not follow through on the requirements.
Child support can be a confusing and contentious matter. A child support lawyer from a law firm like The McKinney Law Group may be able to help clarify.