How to File for Child Support

Your child is the most important part of your life, and caring for their needs tops your list of priorities. However, you may need financial assistance from their other parent. This is sometimes obtained through a child support order. 

In a child support case, money is often ordered to be paid by the non-custodial parent. Unfortunately, some non-custodial parents don't easily comply with child support orders, creating additional headaches for you.

Filing for child support when you have an existing family court case

Filing for child support when you already have an existing family court case is relatively straightforward. 

The family court judge will review the existing order and modify or create a child support order, if necessary. A modification could reflect issues such as changes in income, healthcare coverage, or living arrangements.

The first step is to fill out all the paperwork required by your state’s family law court. This includes proving your relationship to the other parent of the child and documenting each person’s income. You may also need to provide documents that show changes in your income over time, as the court will consider economic changes when determining or modifying child support.

Once all the documents are submitted, you must attend a hearing before a family court judge. The judge will decide on a new or modified child support order. During this hearing, both parents may present additional evidence that could impact their rights and duties regarding the financial support of their children. 

Once the judge issues a decision, both parties must comply with its terms. Failure to do so could lead to contempt charges against either spouse.

Filing for child support without an existing family court case

If you don't currently have an existing family court case, you can still pursue child support by filing a petition with your county court. 

This will require providing proof of parentage and documenting each party’s financial situation. After submitting these documents, the court will review them and make a determination regarding payment information – that is, how much money should be paid to provide sufficient care and financial assistance for the minor children involved.

If the judge is satisfied with all the documentation provided, they'll issue a child support order. This order will state which parent will make payments, which parent will receive payments, the amount of the payments, and the frequency of the payments.

Enforcing a child support order

Once a child support order has been established by the court, it must then be enforced by law. A number of enforcement tools exist that can help ensure compliance with a child support order. These include wage garnishment, tax refund interception, and civil contempt proceedings. 

As the recipient, it's important to be familiar with all enforcement and payment options available so you can take action if payments fall behind or stop altogether.

If you're the recipient, remember that any money you receive is for the express benefit of your child. If the child's other parent fails to make payments, makes them sporadically, or does not otherwise comply with the court's order, you could attempt to resolve the matter with your child's other parent directly. But you also have legal options. For example, you could notify the court that the other party is not complying with the child support order. This will get the court involved, and they may force the other party to comply using the tools available to them.

What to do when a payor spouse does not comply 

When the parent who's supposed to be paying doesn't comply with the court order, the other parent has options. Here are some steps that could be taken:

  1.  Contact the state child support enforcement agency. These state agencies are dedicated to resolving issues related to child support payment and the enforcement of court orders.
  2.  Initiate legal proceedings. If all attempts at amicable resolution fail, filing a motion in court may be necessary to obtain payment or compel compliance with the existing order.
  3.  Request a review of the order. Depending on your state's laws, you may be able to request a review of your current order in an effort to have payments adjusted or increased. Over time, additional information may come to light that impacts your children’s needs.
  4.  Document any attempts at contact made by either party involved in the agreement. This documentation will help provide evidence of non-payment or other relevant matters should legal action become necessary down the road.
  5.  Pursue available remedies. As mentioned, methods to force disbursement may include wage garnishment or withholding income tax refunds from payors who owe delinquent child support payments.

Whether you are the recipient parent or the parent who is paying support, you can get legal help, guidance, and even emotional support from Hello Divorce. Our Divorce Navigator walks you through every form relevant to your child support order. We offer a plethora of helpful articles and FAQ for parents going through divorce. We also provide access to mediators and attorneys you can work with to reach a suitable outcome. 


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Divorce Content Specialist & Lawyer
Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Legal Insights

Bryan is a non-practicing lawyer, HR consultant, and legal content writer. With nearly 20 years of experience in the legal field, he has a deep understanding of family and employment laws. His goal is to provide readers with clear and accessible information about the law, and to help people succeed by providing them with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the legal landscape. Bryan lives in Orlando, Florida.