Your Bridgeport Child Support Case: The Basics
You thought raising a family in P.T. Barnum’s hometown would be magical, but your ex has turned it into a three-ring circus of the worst sort. Now it’s up to you to walk the tightrope to ensure your kids are taken care of. Navigating this process can be a daunting task, so here are just some of the basic ins and outs of Bridgeport child support law.
How Does Child Support Work?
Following a divorce or legal separation involving children, a court will sometimes order one parent to pay the other parent child support to provide for the care and wellbeing of shared minor children. Child support is money paid by a parent, usually the one without custody to the custodial parent, until the child is 18 years old. In Connecticut, the idea is that the child should receive the same amount of financial support from each parent as he or she would get if the parents were living together.
How Do I File For Child Support?
In Bridgeport, the process of getting a court order for child support is called establishment, and the state has a particular set of child support guidelines it normally follows. The easiest way to get a child support order is through a voluntary agreement between you and your ex. If your ex agrees to the amount owed under the guidelines, you can ask him or her to sign an agreement form. If the agreement is approved by a family support magistrate and filed with the clerk of the court, it would then become legally enforceable.
You can also get a support order by filing a legal action, such as one for a divorce or separation, in court. Judges usually handle divorce cases while magistrates specialize in child support matters. In one of these cases you may present information about your finances and those of your ex. Either of you may also be required to testify about your ability to support your child.
The Department of Social Services provides a child support guide, and documents can be filed at the Fairfield Judicial District Courthouse at 1061 Main Street. You can also reach the courthouse at (203) 579-6936.
How Much Child Support Will I Get?
The Child Support Guidelines are based on what is called the Income Shares Model. This model tries to ensure that your child receives the same proportion of parental income as he or she would if you still lived together with your ex. Therefore, the amount you will pay and/or receive depends on your weekly income, your ex’s weekly income, which of you is the custodial parent, and how many total children you have. This calculation can seem complex and the Commission for Child Support provides a guideline calculator for estimating your share and what you might receive.
Can I Change My Child Support Order?
In some situations, a child support order can be modified. This can occur if:
- Your financial situation changes;
- The amount of the support order is no longer enough to meet the needs of your child;
- The support order didn’t include medical insurance, or
- Your circumstances (or those of your ex or your child) have changed substantially.
Either parent may request that the state review the support order to see if it should be modified. If you would like a review, you can make a request in writing to your support enforcement officer, stating the reasons you think the order should be modified.
What If the Other Parent Doesn’t Pay Child Support?
It is very important to pay your child support obligation or to alert the Support Enforcement Services Unit if you are not receiving child support payments you are owed. The enforcement unit has many tools to enforce child support payments, including:
- Withholding Income – the court may deduct money from the non-custodial parent's income including wages, overtime pay, worker's compensation, unemployment compensation, and retirement benefits;
- Finding the Person In Contempt – if the court finds that the non-custodial parent willfully failed pay child support, he or she could be found in contempt and may be ordered to pay a fine or be sent to jail until a fine or the child support is paid; or
- Suspending a Driver’s License – the court may order the non-custodial parent’s driver's license suspended.
Trying to sort out child support with an ex can be hard for anyone, and consulting with an attorney could make the process easier. You can schedule a meeting with an experienced child support attorney or look for free legal aid in Bridgeport. More general information on this topic can be found at FindLaw’s child support law section.
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