Parents who live separately must arrange for their children’s financial support. Children have the legal right to receive contributions toward their basic needs from each parent.
Ideally, parents create a workable child support arrangement and incorporate it into their parenting plan. A local family attorney can assist in that process. If disputes arise, a Milford child support lawyer can help a parent create, modify, or enforce their agreement.
Like most states, Connecticut uses a formula to calculate the basic support obligation. The formula attempts to ensure the children’s standard of living remains the same despite the parents’ separation. Parents must understand that support is a child’s right, and once child support is in the hands of the court, a parent cannot waive payments unless a judge finds a deviation is warranted. Even when a wealthy parent has primary physical custody and does not need additional money to provide for the children, a non-custodial parent is expected to contribute to their care absent a bona fide reason to deviate from the presumptive amount provided under the child support guidelines.
Parents can deviate from the basic obligation, especially if their arrangement provides alternative additional support for the children. If the parents’ plan offers less than the formula calls for, the parents must demonstrate why a smaller payment is necessary and prove the smaller amount is in the children’s best interests. A lawyer in Milford can help a parent explain why their support agreement does not conform to the guidelines.
Parents incorporate their agreed child support arrangement into the parenting plan being filed with the court. A judge will review and approve the plan if it is in the children’s best interests. However, a judge can reject all or part of the plan, including the support agreement, if warranted. A judge might substitute another arrangement if it finds the parents’ child support agreement does not further the children’s best interests.
A judge will include a child support order in the final divorce decree. In most cases, the order includes a contingent income withholding order, whereby if the payor falls behind with child support by more than 30 days, the recipient can request the payor’s wages be garnished. Such an arrangement may be ordered immediately where delays or failure in paying is likely. Where a wage garnishment enters the paying spouse’s employer deducts child support from the paying spouse’s wages and directs it to the State Disbursement Unit (SDU). The SDU transfers the payment to the receiving parent’s bank account.
The child support obligation may change over time due to changes in income, earning capacity, or the child’s needs. Connecticut General Statutes § 46(b)-86 allows either parent to seek child support modification if the parent’s circumstances change. However, parents are generally obligated to pay support until the child reaches 18 or graduates from high school, whichever comes last. In some cases, parents might agree to continue support if the child pursues higher education, but such an order is issued under a different statute.
Child support can trigger disputes between parents. The paying parent might believe the receiving parent is not using the money for the child’s benefit. Nonetheless, the paying parent cannot micromanage how the receiving parent spends child support. The law assumes the receiving parent uses the funds to help pay for rent or mortgage, food, clothing, and expenses related to education and activities.
Another common source of conflict arises when the recipient parent attempts to limit access to the children if the paying parent falls into arrears. Parents should not conflate financial support with the right to visitation. A receiving parent may not deny access to the children because a paying parent is late with child support. Conversely, a paying parent cannot deny financial support because they are unhappy with their parenting time. The law offers remedies to enforce child support orders or modify parenting time arrangements. A parent should consult a Milford lawyer about pursuing legal remedies before trying to leverage parenting time or financial support to deal with a co-parent dispute.
Connecticut’s formula for calculating the basic support obligation should make arriving at a child support agreement easier, but disagreements can occur later when the parents implement the plan. A Milford child support lawyer can help a couple negotiate an agreement and assist if an arrangement is not working as planned. Call today to speak with a knowledgeable legal team.