In this day and age, biological fathers have the same right to request and obtain an award of child support that mothers do. That means that if a father has sole custody, he is entitled to an award of child support from the mother. If he shares joint custody of his minor children and his income is significantly smaller than the mother's income, he is likewise entitled to an award of child support.
Child Support Calculations
Each parent has a legal duty to contribute to the financial support of minor children. In a divorce case, the court assesses the amount of financial contribution each parent must make, taking into account the number of children, the custody arrangements and the relative income of the parents.
A father who is awarded sole custody of the children is entitled to child support from his ex-spouse. The amount he will be awarded depends on how many children the couple has and how much money his former spouse makes. A parent with sole custody is deemed to contribute sufficiently to the children's financial support by virtue of housing and feeding them.
A father who is awarded joint custody of his minor children with the other parent is entitled to child support from his ex-spouse if she earns a significantly larger income than he does. Every state has its own formula for determining child support in joint custody situations, so the amount awarded depends also on your state of residence.
Child Support Considerations
The assumption that a parent who doesn't pay court-ordered child support will lose rights to see the children is one of the most prevalent myths of divorced parents. Sometimes, a mother may refuse to allow the children to spend the visitation weekend at their father's house because he hasn't paid child support. However, this can work the opposite way too; a father with sole custody may think he can refuse visitation visits to the mother if she doesn't keep up with her child support payments.
Whether the father of minor children pays his ex-spouse child support or receives child support from her, the legal duty to pay child support is independent of the legal right to see one's children. That is, a parent owes court-ordered child support whether or not the other parent allows court-ordered visitation; and a parent has the right to court-ordered visitation regardless of whether child-support is paid.
If your spouse refuses to allow you to see the children because you are behind in child support, consider raising the matter before the divorce court. The law presumes that it is in the children's best interests to see both parents regularly.
Legal Custody Issues
Child support responsibilities are also independent from legal custody issues. Legal custody means the right to make important decisions for minor children. A parent with legal custody decides which school a child attends and what type of medical treatment she will receive.
A father can share legal custody with a mother even if he doesn't share physical custody. If he does, he is entitled to all the documentation necessary to make those decisions, such as school papers and medical test results. However, this right is not interconnected with the duty to pay child support.
If you are just beginning a divorce, be sure you understand the various legal rights and duties that parents have solely or share. Physical custody means where the child lives most of the time. Legal custody means who makes life decisions for minor children.
If you are a father who was not married when your child was born, you may need to establish paternity before you seek physical or legal custody or request child support from the other parent.