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Can Non-Payment of Child Support Affect Child Custody

The short answer is, “yes,” non-payment of child support can affect and prevent child custody in Louisiana, but it is rare that the parent who has custody will also be paying child support. Not all cases are the same, and it does not mean that a missed payment or two will affect a parent’s custody of their child, but if a parent never started payments or is on back payments of several months, then the courts may intervene. 

Every situation is different, which is why it is best to speak with an experienced child custody attorney to go over the details. If a parent is missing payments, it is likely that the court will find them in contempt and order immediate payment, or they may lose their parental rights, as well as face jail time. 

Defining Child Support

Child support, also known as child maintenance, is a continuous, periodic payment paid by a parent for the financial benefit of a child. Child support is money provided by an obligor to an obligee, either directly or indirectly, for the care and support of children from a relationship that has ended or never existed. The obligor is frequently a non-custodial parent. A custodial parent, a caregiver, a guardian, or the state is usually the obligee.

Children’s financial assistance is the responsibility of both parents. In proportion to their income, each parent bears responsibility. Child support balances the time spent with each parent and the share of the child’s costs that both parents owe since physical custody is split between both parents. Child support pays for a child’s day-to-day expenditures. It can also cover costs for the child’s health insurance, school tuition, camps, athletics, and any other additional out-of-school curricula and activities.

Paying Child Support

Child support is administered by each state, and Louisiana has its own set of child support requirements. Louisiana calculates child support payments using the “income share” system, which ensures that both custodial and non-custodial parents contribute to their child’s upkeep.

If a child’s parents share custody, the Louisiana court who determines child support may deviate from the standard formula to account for this. Childcare expenditures and unusual medical costs are two more specific conditions covered by Louisiana’s child support legislation. These charges may be in addition to the regular child support order in Louisiana.

Child support can be agreed upon between the parents outside of court through a mutual agreement order, or it can be decided in Louisiana family court through a child support order. When deciding the amount of child support to be paid in court in Louisiana, a number of criteria are considered. The two main methods Louisiana uses for determining child support are the Income Share Method and the Percentage of Income Method. 

Calculating Child Support Payments 

The court analyzes economic statistics to assess the overall monthly cost of raising the child or children under the income share model. The non-custodial parent pays a percentage of the projected cost depending on their proportional part of the combined income of both parents.

The percentage of income method for calculating child support is straightforward: the custodial parent receives a certain percentage of the non-custodial parent’s income each month to cover child support expenses. If the non-custodial parent’s income changes, the amount paid may remain the same or fluctuate.

Example of the Income Share Method: One child’s non-custodial parent earns $5,000 per month, whereas the custodial parent earns $2,000 per month. The expense of rearing one child is estimated to be $2,000 per month, according to the court. The income of the non-custodial parent accounts for 71.4% of the parents’ combined income. Under this calculation, the non-custodial parent ends up paying $714 a month in child support, or 71.4 percent of the entire obligation.

Example of the Percentage of Income Method: One of the children’s non-custodial parents earns $5,000 each month. The court directs that the non-custodial parent pay the custodial parent a fixed proportion of 40% of the non-custodial parent’s income in child support. Using this calculation, the non-custodial parent pays $2,000 per month in child support. If the non-custodial parent’s monthly income fluctuates, the amount of child support they pay will fluctuate as well.

Consequences of Defaulting on a Child Support Payment 

When the payment date specified in the order, such as the 1st, 15th, or the 30th, and that date has passed and the individual has not made a payment, it is considered late.

A child support order may include a short grace period or an extension of time for the individual to make a payment in specific situations. If the grace period expires without the individual making a payment, the court or a child support agency may issue a Notice of Child Support Delinquency.

The custodial parent can report late child support payments if they are not received on time. It’s vital to remember that child support is seen as a debt, and the person who owes it is treated as a debtor. If the person does not pay, they will be labeled delinquent, and their information will be shared with credit bureaus. If a person fails to make timely payments, they may be subject to late child support payment penalties, including interests and other related fees.

If the person refuses to pay, the court has the authority to hold them in contempt of court. A contempt of court order indicates that the person has disobeyed their child support decree. If the non-paying individual is found in contempt by the judge, they may be sentenced to prison or fined.

Child Support and Custody

In most cases, a parent who fails to pay child support will not lose custody of their child. For starters, the parent with custody is rarely the one who is legally responsible for child support payments.

Furthermore, child support and custody are not the same thing. As a result, unless unusual circumstances exist, one does not generally affect the other. For example, a parent who fails to pay child support may lose custody of their child if they are sentenced to prison and are unable to care for the child due to their incarceration because the court will have found them in contempt of the previous judgment. Additionally, if the parent’s failure to pay is from other circumstances that put the child at harm or is not in their best interest, that they may also cause them to lose custody. Typically, however, if a parent is paying support, they likely do not have a custody arrangement. 

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