Child support can be difficult to understand. If it’s a factor in your life, or about to become one, it’s always a good idea to learn as much about it as possible.
Unfortunately, though, there exist many different misconceptions concerning child support. These myths can cloud this topic and make it difficult to parse fact from fiction.
Frequent Misconceptions About Child Support
Our goal is to add a little more clarity to some of the most common child support myths out there. What follows are a few misconceptions we’ve frequently heard from clients or have seen discussed online.
By addressing some of these myths upfront, we hope you’ll have a better understanding of child support and your role in such an obligation.
Myth 1: Only Men Pay Child Support
One of the most common misconceptions about child support is that men are the only people who pay it. If that were the case, there would be serious concerns about equal protection under child support laws.
In reality, either parent can be responsible for child support. Typically, the parent who pays support is the non-custodial parent or the parent in the stronger financial position. Ultimately, child support is ordered according to the best interests and needs of the child, not the sex of either parent.
Myth 2: Failing to Pay Child Support Can Mean Losing Custody
When people think about the potential consequences of failing to pay child support, it’s understandable that they’d assume they’d lose custody or visitation rights. Fortunately, this isn’t the case – but there are consequences for failing to pay child support.
First, child support debt never goes away. If you miss a month’s payment, you are always liable to pay it back. Second, if you are able to make payments but refuse to do so, you could be held in contempt of a court order. This is a misdemeanor criminal offense that can put you in jail.
Myth 3: Child Support Pauses During Unemployment
It might also seem logical to assume that child support obligations are put on hold when the paying parent loses their job. This isn’t the case. Unless that parent petitions the court for a modification of the child support order to accommodate their job loss, the existing child support order stands regardless of the paying parent’s actual financial situation.
When a parent petitions the court in this manner, it may decide one of three things:
- Temporarily pause the child support obligation
- Temporarily reduce the amount of child
- Decline to modify the child support order
If you accrue child support debt because you lost your job and can no longer pay, you might fear facing criminal charges. Fortunately, you probably have little to worry about as long as you legitimately can’t pay your child support obligation due to a lack of income. Remember that willful non-payment when someone is otherwise able to afford child support is what puts them at most risk of criminal liability.
Myth 4: Child Support Obligations End When the Child Turns 18
It can also seem plausible that child support obligations end as soon as a child turns 18. A person’s child becomes a legal adult, so there’s no “child” to support – right? Not quite.
This would only be true if the child is no longer in high school and there are no child support arrears. If a child is still attending high school when they turn 18, child support obligations continue until the child graduates or turns 19 (whichever comes first). If there are missing child support payments, these don’t disappear because the child turns 18. Child support arrears never go away.
It’s also worth mentioning that it’s possible for a child support obligation to never end. Such may be the case when a child has special needs and is unable to become a self-sustaining adult. In this case, a parent ordered to pay child support may continue to do so well into their child’s adulthood.
Myth 5: Bankruptcy Can Eliminate Child Support Debt
Nothing can eliminate child support debt except paying it off. This means that any unpaid child support payments will follow a person throughout their life until they complete their obligation.
Do You Have a Question About Child Support?
At Beatriz Zyne, P.A., we know that child support can be a confusing topic. That’s why we want our current and potential clients to always know that we can be a dependable resource for them and their needs.
If you have a legal matter or question concerning child support, we want to hear from you. By scheduling an initial consultation with our attorney, we can provide the legal support and services you need to move forward.
Request your consultation with us today when you contact Beatriz Zyne, P.A. online.