What is Child Support?
Child support is the court-ordered sum of money that gets paid every month to the parent who has primary custody of a child or children. The amount is typically set during the custody hearing and is required by law in South Carolina. Child support is intended to benefit the children and is designed to pay for necessities. These essentials include but are not limited to:
- Clothing and other essential items
- Health insurance
- Medical expenses
- Educational needs
Child support payments are not intended to be used as an added source of income for the parent receiving the money. The sole purpose is for the child or children to benefit from the support payments. Child support is meant to pay for the necessities and is not intended to be used for items that are not necessary to the child’s overall care and welfare.
A top-flight Greenville, SC family law attorney understands that determining child support amounts can be a complicated process. The courts will look at a variety of factors and are made with the child’s best interests in mind. Each state has its formula for determining child support amounts.
How is Child Support Determined?
South Carolina has guidelines used to determine child support amounts. These guidelines will look at the income of both parents, several children eligible for support, the amount of time spent with each parent, medical and daycare costs (if applicable), and other needs.
When calculating child support payments, the courts look at the following:
- The age, gender, and background of the child/children
- Special academic needs
- Special medical needs
- The income of each parent
- The educational level of each parent
- Number of children involved
- History of past child support payments
- Any other factor that the court deems to be relevant
Adjustments in Child Support Payments
For the majority of individuals, child support is calculated based on the above factors. Child support payments are typically set in place until the minor children reach the age of 18 and are finished with high school. However, there are instances where the courts might deviate from the standard calculations.
In these cases, the child support agreement will need to be modified. The court can modify child support amounts based on significant life changes for one or both of the parents. Some of these factors include:
- Change in residence for one party
- Loss of a job
- Demotions at work or other salary reductions
- Medical issues that would necessitate a reduction in the monthly payment
- Another profound change in circumstances
It can be challenging to get a child support payment modified, and the courts do not have to agree to the modification. Child support payments are ordered to be paid on time and in full without any exceptions.
It is the burden of the paying spouse to prove that a significant change is impacting their ability to make the ordered payment amount. Most of the modification requests are for lower payment amounts. However, one spouse asking for a higher price because of a change in the needs of a child is also common.
If the modification in child support does not directly benefit the child or children, the courts will typically reject the request to change the support amount.
Who Has to Pay Support?
Child support payments can be required for either individual. The court does not place any distinction between sexes, and it does not matter if the parties were ever married or not. Besides, the courts can order paternity tests if there is a dispute as to who the father of the child might be. Stepparents are not obligated to make support payments. The only exception is if the stepparent has legally adopted the child.
When support is typically ordered is when one parent has primary custody of the child or children. The non-custodial parent will be required to pay child support. The courts look at the custodial parents as bearing more of a financial burden than the non-custodial parent, simply because the children are primarily under the care of the custodial parent.
What Happens when Support Payments are not Made?
When the party responsible for making child support payments fails to pay, the court can intervene to make sure the payments are being made. There is no grace period with child support, and the courts will look to collect the full amount to include the delinquent payments. This is known as child support arrears.
If the court has to intervene, the consequences can be severe. Typically, the court will issue an order requiring the payments to be made. If fees are still not made, the courts have a few options available. These options include:
- Wage garnishment
- Contempt orders
- Criminal proceedings
The most commonly used option is for the courts to garnish the wages of the delinquent parent. The court will contact the individual’s employer and set aside money directly from their paycheck to pay for unpaid child support.
New Child Support System Should Help
Congress passed a law that required every state to create an automated system for enforcing child support payments. The law was passed three decades ago, and it took South Carolina that long to finally get the system up and running in this state.
South Carolina is the last state to computerize the enforcement system. Will this system help those in this state who received child support?
What does this system do?
The federal government has fined the state of South Carolina more than $173 million for failing to have the computerized enforcement system in place. The federal government officially certified the South Carolina system as working in September. Officials in this state blame a series of contract disputes and lawsuits that took place after the initial contractor abandoned the job in 1998. After another contract ended in 2015, South Carolina decided to borrow and tweak Delaware’s system for our use.
This new DSS system will find parents who are behind on child support payments weeks earlier than was previously possible and should help children and parents who are struggling economically. This new system means that parents who do not pay child support can no longer disappear from the state system by moving to another state or out of the country.
Jimmy Early, who took over the DSS project in 2015 said that “One of the most important things we have to do in child support is found, somebody.” This system electronically communicates with other states, automatically updates new hires for all employees, and checks all those collecting unemployment benefits. This will help the state better track somebody and garnish their wages.
According to the Post and Courier collections from personal financial accounts rose significantly after the new system rolled out, including $21,500 collected from one delinquent parent last June, $26,000 collected from another parent in August, and $33,000 from another in September.
At the Elliott Frazier Law Firm, we are dedicated to helping ensure people are treated fairly when it comes to this issue. You can contact our Greenville child support attorney for a consultation today so we can plan your next steps forward together.
Contact a Qualified Attorney for your Child Support Needs
Child support proceedings can be complicated and confusing. If you need help with any aspect of your child support case, you will want an experienced attorney on your side. Whether you need help collecting the support or you want to get the order modified, a professional attorney can help with this process.
Contact Angela Frazier today for your case evaluation.