Every state has their own laws and guidelines for granting child support, and it is up to the judge to determine the final amount. The responsibility of each parent over child support and who ultimately pays it depends greatly on several factors, including who has custody. Typically the non-custodial parent pays child support, and the amount is determined by how much the custodial parent's income is.
Joint Custody Support
When joint custody is involved, the case of child custody is a bit more complicated than if only one parent has custody. In this case, both parents usually support the child and the amounts they are expected to pay are based largely on two important factors: how much each parent contributed financially to the household, and the percentage of time the child spends in each parent's home.
Usually, the parent who makes more money will have to pay a larger portion toward child support than the other parent. Also, if a child lives more often at one parent's home over the other, the judge will assume that parent bears most of the financial cost of raising the child; meaning the parent with whom the child spends less time living with, will usually have to pay the child support.
Unmarried Parents Support
In the case of parents who were never married to each other, the non-custodial parent still must provide child support. The factors that determine how much child support must be given are dependent on if the child ever lived with the non-custodial parent, both parent's income levels, the resources of the custodial parent, the non-custodial parent's ability to make child support payments and how much time the non-custodial parent spends with the child.
In the case of stepparents, there is no legal responsibility for a stepparent to pay child support to their stepchildren. Only in the case of adoption where the biological parent's rights are terminated, is a stepparent legally obligated to pay child support.
Other Factors Involved
The amount a parent must pay is also determined by several other factors too. These include keeping the quality of life experienced by the child prior to the divorce the same, expenses associated with raising the child (city living as opposed to country living, activities the child is enrolled in etc.), specific needs of the child such as medical expenses or if the child is disabled, and other financial resources available to the custodial parent.
It is possible to change child support payment arrangements, but you must go back to court to do so. This can happen with loss of employment, illness or if the custodial parent remarries or their financial status changes.
For further assistance, contact a local lawyer, such as one from Hurth Sisk & Blakemore LLP.