Child Support

Authored By: Lagniappe Law Lab
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Child Support

Child support is financial support that one or both parents provide to their child. The amount of support gets based on the needs of the child and the parent's ability to provide support. This basic financial support provides food, housing, education, and clothing. Financial support may also include medical and dental expenses.

In a divorce proceeding or after that, the court may order either or both of the parents to provide an interim allowance or final support for a child based on the needs of the child and the ability of the parents to provide support. The award may be modified if the circumstances of the child or of either parent materially change and it is proven that the award has become unnecessary. 

The non-custodial parent usually pays child support to the custodial parent. It is important to note that child support is distinct from child custody and visitation. 

Child support is also different from any spousal support the court may order you to pay. However, the court will consider any preexisting child support or spousal support obligation paid to another on behalf of another child or to a person not a part of the current proceeding. 

The Louisiana Support Guidelines determine how much child support may be owed. The amount a parent may pay is based on both parents' incomes and the number of children in the family. The guidelines help ensure that the child gets support with an amount based on the income of the parents.

The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) runs child support enforcement. Child Support Enforcement programs ensure non-custodial parents pay their share of child support.

What You Need To Know

A parent who has physical custody of the child may get child support to help with the financial costs of the child. This parent is often known as the primary caretaker or domiciliary parent. Parents who are not married, unmarried, or divorced can get child support. Other adults, such as a grandparent, may get child support when a child is in their primary legal custody.

Most of the time, the non-custodial parent pays child support to the custodial parent. The custodial parent is the primary caregiver. The non-custodial parent does not have the primary physical custody of the child.

Child support helps support the financial costs of raising a child. When one parent is living apart from another parent, they may need money to raise the child. A parent may seek child support during a marriage, while they are separated, or after a divorce. A parent may also get child support even if they are not or were never married to the other parent.

Child support gets determined by the parent's income and other factors. Other factors may include 1. The number of children involved, 2. The amount of parenting time each parent has, and 3. the cost of medical and childcare expenses.

Child support is financial support to help cover the costs of raising a child. This includes costs for food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and other educational needs.

The parent getting child support does not need to pay federal tax on child support payments. A parent paying child support can't deduct child support expenses to calculate taxes.

When the court is initially deciding whether to order a parent to pay child support and at what amount, the court will look at the gross income of both parents. Income refers to an employed parent’s actual income or an unemployed/underemployed parent’s potential income. Generally, the court uses guidelines to determine each party’s share of the total child support. Note that the court has the power to set the amount higher or lower than the guidelines if that amount would not be in the best interest of the child or if it causes an unfair burden to the parties. 

When a parent cannot afford to make their child support payment, then they can ask to change the payment. To change a child support payment amount, a parent must ask the court to modify the amount. A parent must provide evidence of the changed circumstances to get the modification.

An obligation for child support begins no earlier than the date of the filing of court papers. A parent can reserve the right to retroactive child support payments. They must ask for child support in the pleadings that they file with the court. This means that a parent can request child support in a pleading and get payments all the way from the filing time.

When the court orders one or both parents to provide child support during the spouse’s divorce proceeding, this is called interim allowance child support. The obligation to pay interim support is effective until and if the court grants a final child support award.

Child support gets paid until the child reaches the age of 18 or gets emancipated. A child who is 18 or emancipated ends the obligation for child support. No action is necessary to end the obligation by a formal process.

If the child support award is a specific amount for each child, then the obligation to pay child support relating to that child is automatically terminated when that child reaches age 18 (age of majority). 

Child support may get paid to a child who is 18, unmarried, has not graduated from high school, a full-time student in good standing, and dependent on one parent until the age of 19 or until graduation from high school - whichever occurs first

Child support may continue until the child is 22 if the child has a developmental disability and is a full-time student.

In rare cases, regardless of the age of the child, the award of child support may continue as long as support is required for an adult unmarried child who is not capable of supporting himself and requires substantial care or personal supervision due to a mental or physical disability that occurred before their 18th birthday.

A noncustodial parent may not make child support payments when they cannot work and get Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

A noncustodial parent may need to make child support payments when they are getting Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

The court can take various enforcement actions against a parent who fails to pay child support. These may include wage garnishment, interception of tax refunds, suspension of driver’s license, passport denial, and even jail time. 

Generally, you can enforce court-order child support through a contempt proceeding. Louisiana allows you 10 years to recover past-due child support payments.

The obligation to pay child support is suspended during the period of being incarcerated unless the parent has the means to pay while he/she is in jail, the parent was incarcerated for an offense against the child or other parent, or if the jail time is due to nonpayment of child support. 

The payments suspended while the parent is incarcerated can be added to the end of the child support obligation even if the child has reached age 18.

Steps To Get Child Support

Steps To Get Child Support

The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) handles child support in Louisiana. Custodial parents who need help should visit the DCFS website. The DCFS website has all the information and documents you need to get child support. You can apply for child support services, request a payment, or check on the status of your case. You can also find other information about Louisiana's child support guidelines and enforcement.

Find A Department of Children and Family Services Office

Steps To Getting Child Support

Generally, either parent can go to court and ask for a Child Support Order to establish a set amount for Child Support. Also, a person who has custody of a child, such as a grandparent, can ask for an order. Finally, if either parent receives public assistance for the child and they are not married and living together, the local attorney’s office can request a Child Support Order. 

If you are eligible for public assistance, or FITAP (Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program), your case will be automatically referred to the District Attorney's Office. Anyone who does not receive public assistance will be charged an application fee of $25.00 which is forwarded to DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services).

If a child is not receiving any cash assistance, the parents may make their own arrangements for child support. Either parent may apply for help from Child Support Enforcement. Once an acknowledgment is signed, the father may be obligated to support the child.

You need to get an official child support order from a court. Without a child support order, a paying parent will not be able to ask a court or local agency to enforce the child support obligation or collect payment.

Gather necessary information, including: 

  • Full legal name and address of the parent who is obligated to pay.

  • Date of birth and physical description of the non-custodial parent. (Photographs are very helpful.)

  • Social Security number of the non-custodial parent.

  • Birth Certificate(s), Social Security card(s) and Medicaid card(s) of each child.

  • A copy of any marriage license.

  • A copy of any divorce decree or separation agreement.

  • A copy of any civil child support judgment.

  • Name and address of the current or most recent employer of the non-custodial parent.

  • Names and addresses of friends or relatives of the non-custodial parent.

  • Information relating to income and other assets of the non-custodial parent.

You can apply for Louisiana Child Support Enforcement services online or by mail. To apply online, visit the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services website and click on the “Apply for Services” button. You will need to provide information about yourself and the other parent, including name, address, Social Security number, and other relevant information. The applicant must complete all items on the form except the Local Office Block. The applicant must sign and date the form. If the applicant cannot sign his name, witness signatures are required.

To apply by mail, download the application form from the department’s website and fill it out. Mail the completed application form to the Child Support Enforcement Regional Office that serves the area in which you reside.

There is a $25 application fee if you do not receive one of the following services:

  1. Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program (FITAP);

  2. Kinship Care Subsidy Program (KCSP);

  3. (AFDC) Aid to Families with Dependent Children

  4. Foster Care Cases (IV-E)

  5. Medicaid

Once your application is received, you will be contacted by a caseworker.

The Office of Family Support will provide a court date for an initial hearing. Attend the initial hearing to discuss the proposed child support order. Make sure to attend all hearings on time and be prepared to answer any questions the judge may have. The court will determine the amount of child support to be paid. If the other parent does not attend the hearing, the court may issue an order for the parent to pay child support. After all hearings have been completed, the judge will issue the final order. This will include the amount of child support due, the frequency of payments, and any other relevant information.

The Office of Family Support will set up payment plans and collect payments from the other parent. The Office of Family Support will distribute payments to the parent with primary custody.

Legal Issues To Consider

Legal Issues To Consider

Legal issues with child support arise in different circumstances. It is important for parents to understand the laws around child support. By understanding the laws and guidelines parents may avoid legal issues.

Legal Issues to Consider Related to Child Support

A parent who does not pay the child support by order of the court may face serious legal consequences. A parent may face wage garnishment, or tax refund withholding. or even get their driver's license or professional license suspended. Depending on how severe the case is in a parent failing to pay child support, the parent may even face jail time.

The amount of child support may need to get modified. This may be the case when the needs of the child or the parent's financial circumstances change. A parent must contact DCFS to change an existing child support order. A parent may need to file a motion with the court to change child support.

The custodial parent can take legal action to enforce a child support order if one parent is not paying. DCFS Child Support Enforcement may take action to collect child support.

Child support and custody are separate issues. A parent cannot withhold visitation or take away custody as a way to collect child support. A parent must pay child support regardless of visitation or custody.

An unemployed parent in Louisiana may be eligible to get unemployment benefits. Depending on the circumstances around unemployment a parent may not pay child support. A parent who becomes unemployed by injury or disability may not have to pay child support. They may also pay a decreased amount of child support. A parent who becomes unemployed on their own may need to pay child support. The amount may get based on the parent's income earning potential.

Last Review and Update: Feb 14, 2023
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