Court Procedures for Obtaining Child Support
The way in which child support is assessed, calculated, collected and distributed to parents with care varies around the world.
In the UK legal intervention is not always required as some parents are able to commit to a private agreement, regarding the paying of regular maintenance. Recognising parental responsibility is generally sufficient to ensure child support payments are made periodically by the non resident parent. However, in some cases legal intervention is the only option.
The First StepBefore being able to seek court assistance, in collecting maintenance payments from a non resident parent, the parent with care must attempt to collect child support from the absent parent. Making an application for child support, through the Child Support Agency (CSA) is usually the last resort for parents who are unable to trace non resident parents who are not interested in making a financial commitment to their child’s upbringing.
Having applied to the CSA parents with care will have to wait whilst the agency collates information, regarding income and living circumstances of the non resident parent. The whole process will take a number of weeks, and if the non resident parent must be traced this will increase the waiting period considerably.
Court ProceduresWhen a couple divorce child maintenance arrangements are usually determined as part of the divorce settlement, which may also include alimony and visitation agreements. If a parent with care requires help from the courts, in order to secure maintenance from a non resident parent, there are certain procedures to follow.
The parent with care, or a legal representative, must appear at the local magistrate court in order to file an application for the establishment of child support. The identifying information they provide must include details of both parents, and documents must all be produced to prove parentage of the child or children.
Receiving A Court SummonsOnce the non resident parent has been located a process server will issue them a court summons. This summons states that the absent parent is being sued for child support. The non resident parent must then attend a mandatory court hearing to explain why they have failed to comply and to determine responsibility for the payment of child support.
In some cases establishment of paternity is also required. If DNA testing is required, in contested cases, the child’s birth certificate may be amended after proof of paternity. After all relevant questions are answered, to the courts satisfaction, the court will order the non resident parent to make periodic child support payments, including outstanding arrears.
The Best Possible SolutionJoint custody is generally acknowledged as being in the best interests of the child or children, after divorce or separation. This requires the child to split their time between both parents and households. Having legal custody of a child gives the parent with care the right to make decisions over the child’s welfare, education and health.
Acknowledging some form of parental responsibility – by paying maintenance – enables the non resident parent to also maintain an interest in their child’s life.