All parents have an obligation to provide for their children financially, regardless of the status of their relationship. Parents are often unable to come to an agreement regarding what each parent’s responsibility should be with regards to child support, however, and one parent will seek court intervention to determine child support obligations. Child support cases can often take months or years to be resolved, which presents an issue as to who will provide for the child in the interim. In such cases, a parent can petition the court to issue a temporary child support order, which will set forth each parent’s obligations for providing financial support of the child until an ultimate decision is made in the case.
How Courts Determine Temporary Support Obligations
Determining temporary support obligations, sometimes referred to as pendente lite support, is a relatively straightforward process. Most, if not all states have written guidelines that set forth factors and calculations the court must use to determine temporary support obligations. Factors considered include the income and assets of each parent, the number of children for whom support must be provided and their ages, and the estimated expenses of caring for each child. Often the custody arrangement of each child is considered as well. Support obligations determined under a state’s guidelines are generally presumed to be correct, but in certain circumstances a judge may be permitted to deviate from the guidelines.
Look for This Language
Be sure that your temporary support order includes language making it temporary and protecting your right to ask to modify it or create a new agreement at any time, even when no change of circumstances has occurred.
Factors Affecting Support Obligations
When either parent requests that the court issue a temporary support order both parents will likely have to verify their income, any assets or debts, and the cost of any expenses they routinely incur, such as health insurance, child care, and housing. The judge deciding the issue of temporary support may hold a hearing on the matter, or he or she may simply issue a temporary order. The order will likely set forth which parent is responsible for paying the other parent child support, the amount of the support obligation, how frequently the support must be paid, and how long the temporary order is to remain in effect. The order will also define other financial obligations, such as which parent is responsible for providing health insurance for the child, which parent must cover the cost of out of pocket medical expenses, and which parent must bear the cost of other miscellaneous expenses.
Temporary Support Orders Versus Final Support Orders
The purpose of a temporary support order is to ensure that the needs of any child that benefits from the order are met during the process of litigating the parents’ ultimate support obligations. To ensure any child who is provided for under a temporary support order is adequately cared for, temporary support orders are enforceable in the same manner as final support orders. Therefore, if a parent fails to comply with a temporary order, he or she can be held in contempt of court and face penalties for refusing to fulfill his or her obligation.
If either parent experiences a substantial change in circumstances while the temporary order is in effect, he or she can request that the court reevaluate the temporary order and modify it to reflect his or her current financial situation. The guidelines used by courts in issuing temporary support orders are usually the same guidelines that are used in determining obligations for a final support order. As such, a parent’s obligations or right to child support as set forth in a temporary order will often be the same as what is set forth in the final order.