The Child Support Enforcement Act of 1984 considers it a major legal responsibility of all American parents to support their biological children after divorce. Child support is a monthly financial assistance paid by a non-custodial parent (or the obligor) to the custodial parent (or obligee). It is intended to cover the child’s basic needs, such as food, clothing, healthcare, shelter and education, and is usually paid until the child turns 18. Although states differ with regard to the factors they consider in determining child support issues, some factors are similar, such as: the age and the needs of the child, and the cost of these needs; the parents’ income, which includes salary, commissions, overtime pay, dividends, and so forth; the age and health of both parents; and, the parent’s capability to pay child support.

Sometimes, besides the child’s basic needs, the court may also require the obligor to contribute to his/her child’s distant financial activities and needs, like college education, dental and/or medical needs, vacation and others.

There are instances when the custodial parent or the non-custodial parent may find it necessary to request for changes in the court’s original decision regarding child support due to these reasons: improved financial situation of the non-custodial parent or obligor, thus the possibility of increasing the amount of support; or the obligor’s financial capability getting reduced, maybe due of loss of job or poor health condition that requires regular medical treatment and medication, thus necessitating a reduction in the amount of support he/she ought to pay. Any changes, however, will have to be decided by the court as the issue is a legal matter and any attempt of the obligor to negotiate directly with the obligee (or vice versa), can result to contempt of court.

According to the law firm Kirker Davis, LLP, under Texas law, all parents have a legal duty to financially support their children, regardless of whether they are present in the child’s life or not. Child support is legally mandated, periodic payments that are meant to offset the costs of a child’s general well-being, from basic necessities to expenses associated with education and health care. Usually, the non-custodial parent pays child support to the parent who has primary custody and incurs most of the child’s living expenses. However, there are situations where both parents can be ordered by a judge to pay child support. Decisions regarding who must pay whom depend on who has physical custody of the child.

Child support is only legally required until the child turns eighteen, graduates from high school, or is emancipated. The amount of child support that the court mandates depends on the child’s specific needs and the obligor’s level of income. These two factors are variable as time goes on, so a child support agreement may be modified to accommodate changes in the child’s needs or the obligor’s salary.