|Both the mother and the father have a legal duty to support their children in accordance with their ability to do so. Normally, jurisdictions have establish child maintenance standards, which provide a formula for determining child maintenance grounded upon a proportion of each parent's gross income.
Such issues are seldom a concern for the court during a marriage or committed relationship. But when parents divorce or live separately from their children, the courts are commonly required to set the sum of child maintenance a non-custodial parent must pay. This issue can be settled out of court or by arguing over it in court. Child support payments, like alimony, may be incorporated into the divorce judgment or may be decided on in a marital separation agreement. This arguable issue can be avoided, providing that both the mother and the father agree to the proper sum of child maintenance and make this agreement part of a marital separation agreement.
If a non-custodial parent has other lawful obligations, they will also be considered in deciding on child support. For example, if a parent is paying child maintenance from a previous relationship, the court will take that responsibility into consideration. Life necessities, such as rent and food will also be taken into account by the judge. Still, the court will not reduce child support payments to make it easier for the non-custodial parent to make discretionary payments. For instance, a parent cannot give money away for charity or purchase a high-priced automobile at the expense of supporting his or her own children. Unlike alimony, payments of child maintenance cannot be deducted from the parent's income taxes.
To assist the court in deciding on the appropriate amount of child maintenance, both parties will be required by the court to prepare a financial declaration that is signed under penalty of perjury. Each parent will be required to fully disclose their income, the nature and extent of their property holdings, including bank accounts, investments and real property and their financial obligations. The court will rely heavily on these documents in making the order and, thus, it is in the children's best interests that the required documents be filled in fully and honestly.
Those who refuse to pay child maintenance can be punished.