Child Support

Child support is a child's legal right to receive financial support from his or her parents. A child's parents might or might not have been married and might or might not have lived together, but he or she still has this right.

Child support, or child maintenance, is reliable financial support paid regularly to help towards a child's everyday living costs. The parent who does not have primary responsibility for day-to-day care (also called custody) of the child is called non-resident parent. The non-resident parent usually pays child support to the parent with custody.

In some cases, the person who has main day-to-day care of the child, who is also known as custodian, may be someone who is not a parent of the child. This person can be a grandparent, another relative or a guardian. Sometimes in such cases both parents may pay child support. In addition, sometimes the law can determine that a step-parent also has a responsibility to pay child support.

In most countries, a child has the right to receive financial support until he or she is 19 years old. The right will exist after this age if the child is still dependent because of illness or disability, or if the child is still in school. In other cases a child might lose the right to child support before turning 19. If he or she starts living with the paying parent full time, starts working full time, receives a benefit or student allowance, starts living in a de facto relationship or marries, the child will stop receiving maintenance from his or her parent before turning 19.

There are different bodies responsible for overseeing the enforcement of regulations and laws on child support in different countries and states. In the UK, the government's child maintenance service is the Child Support Agency (CSA), which is provided by the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission. It uses a standard process to determine how much child support a parent should pay in each case, and to manage the payments. It can also take legal action if the parent does not pay the right amount of money at the right time.

In the UK, a parent can arrange to pay or receive child maintenance in three ways. A parent can use the CSA, a private agreement, or a court order. The CSA does not usually accept applications for maintenance if any of the parents lives outside the UK, but may be able to work out and collect child support if a parent living abroad works for a UK-based employer. In other cases, child maintenance may be arranged through court.

In the United States, a Child Support Enforcement Agency exists in every state or tribe. Such agencies locate non-custodial parents or putative fathers, establish, enforce and modify child support orders, while also collecting and distributing child support money. The state, tribal or local governments operate such agencies in accordance with the Child Support Enforcement program guidelines set forth in Title IV-D of the Social Security Act. They are also known as "IV-D Agencies".

The document called child support order sets the amount of money to be provided by a parent to the parent with custody and/or the responsibility to provide health insurance and/or medical support for the child. The amount, or responsibility, is established by court order or administrative process, voluntary agreement, or other legal process.

In Australia, the Child Support Agency, established in 1988, administers the government's Child Support Scheme. The scheme aims to ensure that separated parents share the cost of supporting their child under the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988 and the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989. The agency is part of the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, which is responsible for its policy development.

Inland Revenue Child Support in New Zealand, which operates under the Child Support Act 199, administers the child support scheme in the country. The scheme is designed to collect money from parents to help financially support their children when a couple with children split up or two people have children and do not live together. It calculates how much child support must be paid by a parent using a standard formula and then collects payments and passes them on to the custodian or the government, when the custodian receives a sole parent benefit like the Domestic Purposes Benefit.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Deadbeat Dads: A National Child Support Scandal
Marcia Mobilia Boumil; Joel Friedman.
Praeger Publishers, 1996
The Politics of Child Support in America
Jocelyn Elise Crowley.
Cambridge University Press, 2003
Care Work: Gender, Class, and the Welfare State
Madonna Harrington Meyer.
Routledge, 2000
Interstate Relations: The Neglected Dimension of Federalism
Joseph F. Zimmerman.
Praeger, 1996
Handbook of Father Involvement: Multidisciplinary Perspectives
Catherine S. Tamis-Lemonda; Natasha Cabrera.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002
Good Enough Mothering? Feminist Perspectives on Lone Motherhood
Elizabeth Bortolaia Silva.
Routledge, 1996
Poor Support: Poverty in the American Family
David T. Ellwood.
Basic Books, 1988
Librarian’s tip: "Child Support -- An Obvious Starting Point" begins on p. 155
The Reconstruction of Family Policy
Elaine A. Anderson; Richard C. Hula.
Greenwood Press, 1991
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 12 "Child Support and the Feminization of Poverty"
From Partners to Parents: The Second Revolution in Family Law
June Carbone.
Columbia University Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 18 "Child Support and the Parenthood Draft"
Women's Life Cycle and Economic Insecurity: Problems and Proposals
Martha N. Ozawa.
Praeger, 1989
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Divorce, Female Headship, and Child Support"
Women as Single Parents: Confronting Institutional Barriers in the Courts, the Workplace, and the Housing Market
Elizabeth A. Mulroy.
Auburn House, 1988
Librarian’s tip: "Child Support" begins on p. 50
Out of Touch: When Parents and Children Lose Contact after Divorce
Geoffrey L. Greif.
Oxford University Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: "Child Support and Enforcement" begins on p. 162
Gender in the Workplace
Clair Brown; Joseph A. Pechman.
Brookings Institution, 1987
Librarian’s tip: "Income for the Single Parent: Child Support, Work, and Welfare" begins on p. 247
Lone-Parent Families: The Economic Challenge
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 1990
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "Child Support and Public Policy"
The Custody Wars: Why Children Are Losing the Legal Battle and What We Can Do about It
Mary Ann Mason.
Basic Books, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Includes discussion of child support in multiple chapters
Absent Fathers?
Jonathan Bradshaw; Carol Stimson; Christine Skinner; Julie Williams.
Routledge, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "Child Support: Who Pays?"
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