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Introduction to child support payments

Pennsylvania parents who are new to the child support payment system may have questions about how it all works. Here is an introductory guide to the process.

The parent with custody of a child is known as the custodial parent, and the parent without custody is known as the noncustodial parent. If child support payments are to be made, the noncustodial parent is required to pay child support regardless of gender.

While maternity is established when a woman gives birth, the establishment of paternity is dependent on the circumstances surrounding the birth. Any child born to a married couple is considered to be the biological offspring of the husband. For unmarried parents, a form called the "Acknowledgment of Paternity Affidavit" can be filled out and submitted at the hospital where the child was born, the Vital Statistics Registrar or the local Child Support Enforcement Agency. If paternity is unknown or contested, either the mother or potential father can request that the CSEA conduct a DNA test to determine parentage. In order to legally establish paternity, the test must show that a man has a 99 percent probability of being a child's father.

Child support payments can be made to custodial biological parents, guardians, legal custodians or adults who are housing the child. The amount of the child support payments will be based on the incomes of both parents. If the noncustodial parent fails to make the child support payments that he or she owes, the state or federal government may take steps to collect the money. This could be done through wage or income garnishment. For example, personal earnings, workers' compensation payments, unemployment payments, retirement benefits and tax refunds can all be garnished to collect child support.

Custodial parents who need help collecting child support payments might wish to contact a family law attorney. The attorney may review the case and work to obtain the delinquent payments.

Source: This Week, "What to know about child support," Bev Theil, Aug. 11, 2018

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