Divorce is seldom pleasant, especially when there are children involved. While child custody and child visitation are top concerns for divorcing parents, child support is also a big issue. And even though some parents are able to work out the terms of their divorce to include an amicable agreement on child support, unless the court enters a child support order into its official record, the amount is not collectible, should the noncustodial or absent parent decide not to pay. For this reason, it is always best to turn to the services of a Utah family law attorney to ensure that you receive an appropriate amount of child support and that the court recognizes your child support agreement.
A child support order is an order indicating who must pay for the basic support of a couple’s children. It may also address who pays for medical care and provides health insurance for the children. Your child support document is an official order entered into the court’s record.
In most cases, the noncustodial or absent parent pays support to the custodial parent. The noncustodial parent is the parent who spends the least amount of time with the children; while the custodial parent is the parent who takes care of the children the most. A support order ensures that both parents, based on their income and resources, contribute to the children’s expenses and necessities.
Sometimes parents who are undergoing divorce reach their own agreements on child support, informally. These agreements may be written or even just oral agreements that amount to a promise. However, in Utah, a child support order is only legal and binding if the order is formalized by the court. Absent court agreement to the order, the child support enforcement agencies in the state will be unable to provide any sort of enforcement efforts or sanctions against the parent tasked with paying support, should that parent go into default on the agreement.
For this reason, even when parents agree on the terms of support, putting the agreement before a judge and having the judge approve the agreement is necessary to ensure a legally binding support order is in force.
A child support order doesn’t just specify an amount that the noncustodial parent pays the custodial parent each week/biweekly/monthly. It often determines which parent is allowed to claim the children as exemptions for the purpose of filing personal income taxes. Because only one parent can claim a child, the parent who provides more than half of the child’s support each year is often the parent who is given permission to claim the child. Sometimes the judge will order parents to take turns claiming the child, or allow one parent to claim one child and the other to claim another. Each situation is unique.
When determining who pays and how much they pay in a Utah child support case, parents’ answers on a child support worksheet are reviewed by the court. Several different factors go into establishing the amount the noncustodial parent pays, a base payment amount, medical and child care expenses, both parents income, percentage of awarded custody and any other child support or alimony agreements in place are all taken into account.
Emy A. Cordano has helped hundreds of parents establish child support through the courts. Schedule your free consultation with our Salt Lake City family law attorney to discuss your situation and begin the child support collection process.