An obligation to pay child support arises out of a court order and essentially is a pro-rated share of the costs of raising a child paid by the parent who has less time with physical custody of the child. Child support payments are meant to provide food, shelter, medicine, clothes, and other essentials for the child – gifts and niceties are out-of-pocket expenses and the court will not order a parent to provide funds for them in most circumstances. A parent does not have an obligation to provide gifts for his or her children, or even to like them, but a parent does have an obligation to provide support if so ordered by the court.
The order by the court mandating support will generally contain language limiting the obligation to pay. Most commonly, support is required so long as the paying parent does not relinquish his or her parental rights and the child in question is under age eighteen. Most importantly, the obligation exists until the court orders otherwise. The amount of child support owed is based in large part on the ability to pay at the time of the order. If the parent obligated to pay loses his or her job the following week, the obligation to pay remains, even if the loss of employment was for a valid medical reason. If a child for whom support is ordered is later adopted, it is possible that the obligation to pay from that point on does not exist. The obligation to pay up until the moment of adoption certainly exists, and the obligation after may exist, depending on the order.
If you are obligated to pay child support and the situation has changed significantly or you are entitled to receive child support and are not doing so, you should consult an attorney in your area. For more information on child support and other family law issues, click here.