In cases where parents live apart, it is very common for the parent who does not have primary custody of the child, or children, to make financial payments to the custodial parent. These payments, also known as child support, are intended to provide for the day-to-day needs of the children. Child support arrangements may be a part of a divorce settlement if the parents are divorced, a court-ordered custody arrangement between unmarried parents, or a private agreement with no court involvement. When circumstances change, however, child support issues can arise. These child support problems may include the marriage or remarriage of either parent, a parent's failure to pay child support on time, a change in a parent's employment status or salary, as well as disputes about visitation.
When child support is negotiated between parents or ordered by the court, the amount of child support is typically determined by a number of factors, including the needs of the child and the ability of both parents to work and earn an income. Many child support issues crop up when a parent loses a job or experiences a sudden increase or decrease in salary. If the non-custodial parent is suddenly unable to pay the full amount of child support, he or she may need to go to court to request a modification of the original child support order. On the other hand, if the custodial parent becomes aware that the support-paying parent is making more money than before, the custodial parent may ask for additional funds to support the children.
Child support issues also crop up when one parent remarries or begins to cohabit with a new partner. If it is the custodial parent who remarries or cohabits, the non-custodial parent may wish to reduce child support payments because he or she feels that the custodial parent now has less need for financial support. Another common circumstance is the failure of the non-custodial parent to make payments on time. This can be one of the most contentious child support issues, as the non-custodial parent may then feel entitled to withhold visitation privileges. However, the law may treat visitation and child support issues as two separate things and not permit parents to make unilateral decisions about visitation or support payments.
As child support issues are often decided in court, it is a good idea for parents to ask their lawyers or the court with jurisdiction in their case for assistance when problems arise. Failure to do this could result in significant legal problems for the parent who cuts off visitation or refuses to pay child support. It can also negatively affect the relationship between both parents and children. By working through child support issues via appropriate channels, parents can both avoid additional legal conflicts and continue to meet the needs of their children.