"Child support" is a parent's legal obligation to contribute to the economic maintenance and education of a child. In a custody or divorce action, it is the money legally owed by one parent to the other for the expenses incurred for children of the marriage/relationship. The right to child support is the child's right and cannot be waived. The obligation is enforceable both civilly and criminally. (Black's Law Dictionary).
Each state uses specific "guidelines" which are followed in the determination of how much child support is to be allocated. Often there are formulas and schedules that are used to calculate the support obligation based upon the number of children and the income of the paying parent. It does not matter whether the custodial parent can afford to support the child on their own. Child support payments are required even if the custodial parent earns more than the non-custodial parent.
The calculated guideline amount of support is presumed to be correct. The judge has some leeway in deviating from the guidelines, but this deviation must be noted and explained in the court's record. Generally, children are entitled to share in the wealth and standard of living of their parents. If their parents are wealthy, the children's standard of living should reflect that. In a high-income family, a judge may order a higher amount of support under the guidelines to reflect that status.
In addition to child support, a non-custodial parent may be required to contribute to the child's daycare costs as well as medical and dental coverage. In some states, like Minnesota, there is a specific formula used to calculate a non-custodial parent's child care obligation. In North Dakota, the amount of a daycare award, if any, is purely discretionary with the Court. As far as medical coverage and uninsured medical expenses, both North Dakota and Minnesota agree that each party must assume a portion of the children's health related expenses.
A child support obligation continues as to each child, until the child reaches the age of majority (18 in most states) and thereafter until the child graduates from high school or attains the age of nineteen years, whichever occurs first. In addition, such obligation shall terminate in the month in which such child marries, joins the Armed Forces or is otherwise emancipated.
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