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Unmarried parents can seek child support payments too

Raising a child is expensive. From smaller expenses, such as shoes and clothes, to more costly expenditures, like extracurricular activities and health insurance, Pennsylvania parents put a significant portion of their finances into their children.

For unmarried parents, these costs are not always fairly shouldered. Child support orders help ensure that both parents are providing adequate financial support and can ease the burden that custodial parents bear.

Can I get child support from my ex?

If you and your ex were married, divorce proceedings will include child support matters. However, for unmarried parents, the path to child support is not always clear. Many parents wrongly believe that they cannot receive child support without first being married; however, since children have the legal right to support from both parents' incomes, you might be eligible to receive child support.

In most situations, you must be the custodial parent to receive child support. As a custodial parent, you take on the role of primary caregiver and provide daily, necessary care. However, joint custody situations often involve child support payments, too. If your child spends roughly the same amount of time with both you and your ex, but your ex earns significantly more than you, child support may be necessary.

Judges may take more than custody into consideration

Even though having primary custody of a child is a good indicator that you are eligible to receive child support payments, it is not necessarily a guarantee. Family law judges may take additional factors into consideration when considering child support options. These may include:

  • If you or an ex established paternity
  • Whether you know the address or whereabouts of your ex
  • If you have a current support order

If you already have a current support order, it is unlikely that a judge will create a new one. Instead, the court will push to enforce the current support order, or you may petition for a modification that reflects your ex's current financial standings.

Why do we have to go through the courts?

Some parents prefer the idea of keeping the court system out of their child support and custody matters. If you and your ex are amicable and open with one another, this can seem like a good idea; however, it may do more harm than good. Child support orders protect children whose parents are no longer together. Without the legal protection of a support order, one parent may stop paying with few -- if any -- legal repercussions.

Since your child's financial well-being is on the line, you probably understand the importance of taking child support matters seriously. Pennsylvania family law can be confusing, however, and many parents feel overwhelmed when seeking support. Lawyers experienced in family law can carefully guide parents through this trying time toward the most optimal outcome possible.

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