Child Support

By Lauren Williams

The courts in the various states can order child support to be paid both while a divorce action is pending and after a divorce has been granted. In most cases, both parents will be equally responsible for supporting their children, although the award of child support often is not enough to fully provide for the child or children. The expenses of feeding, clothing and educating the child probably will not be covered by the award of child support, and the supporting parent often is the one who must make up the difference.

Father’s Obligations

The father is the parent that most often is responsible for paying child support to the custodial wife to support children of the marriage. The award of child support requires either paternity, that the child be the natural child of the father, or adoption, that the father adopted the child.


In most situations, a child support order can be changed to some degree after the initial order has been issued. A change can usually be requested by a parent when relevant circumstances change.


Child support orders often direct payment from the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent at regular intervals. In many states the payments are made through the court in order to allow the state to track and confirm whether the payments are being made. Usually, for example, if a father is paying child support to the child’s mother, the payment would be made monthly on a fixed date. The custodial parent then has the responsibility to care for the minor children with this payment.

When Support Ends

The length of time of child support payments differ state to state. That said, most states will insure that payments last until the child reaches the age of majority, which usually is between 18 and 21. However, if a child is still completing his or her education, the support payments may continue until the child graduates or until such time that the court declares the child to be an adult. For example, if a child is in college and drops out to work full-time and is older than 18, then the child will not need to be supported any longer and the child support obligation may end.


An adult child may require that child support be paid if the adult child is mentally or physically incapable of supporting his or her self. Conversely, a minor child that enters into marriage or otherwise becomes self-supporting may result in the child support being terminated.


Often part of the divorce or separation agreement will include a clause requiring the non-custodial parent to maintain health and life insurance for the minor children. Life insurance provisions vary from state to state so inquire with your particular state’s law to determine what the law is regarding life insurance.

Other Considerations

Most states, in general terms, will take into account the child’s needs and the financial resources of both parents, the standard of living enjoyed by the child during marriage and the child’s educational and medical needs in making a decision on awarding child support. Some states will have statutory norms that are easily calculable, and in other courts will have some leeway in determining the amount.

Effect of Marriage to Another

If a non-custodial parent remarries, in some jurisdictions, the second spouse’s income may be determined to support the non-custodial parent, thus making it possible for the court to order a higher child support amount to support his or her children.

Laws Vary From State-to-State

The issue of child support is obviously very important to any divorce action. To learn about the laws and standards in your state, please contact an attorney in your state.

Lauren Williams

About The Author

Lauren Williams is a legal writer for and the USA Law Network.