When a child's parents are not together, the noncustodial parent is required to make payments to assist in raising the child. In some cases, the person who receives these payments is not the child's biological parent. Instead, it could be a legal guardian or custodian. A person who receives child support payments may simply be a person with whom the child lives. There may be significant penalties for failing to make child support payments.
Parents are also encouraged to consider that withholding support payments may have a negative impact on their sons or daughters. Before a child support order is made, it must be established that a specific male is the child's father. When a married woman has a child, the husband is generally assumed to be the father. When the parents are not married, it may be necessary to establish paternity through a DNA test. Individuals who do not agree to a DNA test can be compelled to do so.
However, it is also possible that paternity will be established voluntarily at the hospital or at some other point after the child is born. Individuals may establish paternity even if they don't live in the same state or country as the child's other parent.
After an individual is determined to be a child's legal parent, that person has greater rights and responsibilities to the child. An attorney may be helpful in negotiating a parenting plan that allows a son or daughter to spend time with both parents. A parenting plan may also determine how much support a custodial parent needs and what the money will be used for. Alternatively, a judge may issue a child support order based on state guidelines.