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Do I have to pay child support without a court order?

modificationDo I have to pay child support without a court order?  This is a question that I see often in my practice. The answer is two-fold: there’s the legal advice and the practical advice.

Picture this:  you and your partner have separated. You’ve moved out of the home.  You’re certain that the relationship cannot be saved.  That said, neither of you has gone to the Court to file the appropriate paperwork (ie Petition for Divorce or Petition for child support).  Are you required to pay support at this juncture of a separation?


The legal advice:  If there is no Order that mandates payment of support, you are not required to make child support payments.  During this phase, there is no legal obligation to pay support.  If support is later sought, it can be collected retroactively but only so far back as the date that the Petition has been served upon you.

The practical advice:  You are a parent and your child(ren) are entitled to financial support from each of his/her/their parents.  If you are the person that moved out, the other parent is now paying the bills and the child’s expenses on his/her own.  How fair is that?  Should s/he really have to file a legal document for you to assist with your kids?

The bottom line:  Generally, my position is that you should calculate child support according to the child support guidelines, and your parenting situation, and pay that amount to the other parent.  There are many reasons for this suggestion.

1)    As a parent, you must help support your child;

2)    Voluntary payment of support will likely assist your relationship with the other parent;

3)    Voluntary payment of support will show the Court that you are a responsible parent and you have done the right thing even when not required to do so.  It follows the old adage of “doing the right thing.”

As always, the details of your matter dictate the advice that I’d give.  Every situation is unique.  If you have questions, need help or wonder if somehow your situation may be different, please contact me to discuss your case in detail for a sound opinion specific to your case.


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