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Q/A: Why Does the Parent with Which the Child Lives Have to Pay Child Support?

Amanda recently asked us on Facebook:
"Why does it take the state forever to address child support issues? If kids are living with a "non custodial parent" for years, why do they still have to pay child support?"
Do you have a general legal question that we can help answer? Ask us on Facebook or Twitter using our Q/A hashtag: #BPLawQA.

Paying Child Support for a Child Who Lives with You

If your ex-spouse has primary custody of your children and you pay court-ordered child support, you must continue to pay that child support in the amount and for the duration defined. This remains true – unless you implement the appropriate legal mechanism – even if, over the course of time, your children come to live with you full time. This is a confusing concept for many people, and it bears taking a closer look.

The Noncustodial Parent

If you are a noncustodial parent, it typically means that your children will live primarily with your ex-spouse, who has the legal right to determine where they will live. As the noncustodial parent, you have the right to visitation with your children. After a divorce, our lives continue to evolve, and sometimes that means that children begin living primarily with their noncustodial parent. If this is true for you, however, it does not change the child support determinations set forth in your divorce decree. You can only make such a change via a legal modification to your child support arrangements.

Visitation and Child Support

It is worth noting that the right to visit one’s children and the payment of child support are separate legal issues. Not making one’s child support payments does not preclude a parent from visiting his or her children. Conversely, if the custodial parent arbitrarily limits the noncustodial parent’s visitation schedule, the noncustodial parent cannot retaliate by failing to pay court-ordered child support. These issues are separate and distinct and must be dealt with accordingly.

Your Children’s Living Arrangements

If you are the noncustodial parent and you pay child support to your ex-spouse, you must continue to do so until you make alternative legal arrangements. If, over time, your ex allows your home to become your children's primary residence – meaning that they live with you the majority of the time – it does not alter your responsibility to pay child support to your ex. The only way to change the amount of child support you need to pay each month is to request that the court modify the original child support order.

Further, the change typically will not go into effect retroactively, and you will continue to owe child support until you file for such a modification. This means that, if your children have been living with you for two years, but you pursued no legal modification, you will likely owe your ex-spouse any child support that you did not pay during those two years.

If You Are Paying Child Support for Children Who Live with You, Consult with a Central Texas Family Law Attorney Today

If you are the designated noncustodial parent, but your children live primarily with you, the situation likely warrants a child support modification. Attorney Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Central Texas has the experience, skill, and knowledge to help you obtain a legal modification that works for you. We are here to help, so please contact or call us at 254-501-4040 today.

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