Can I Get Child Support If I'm Not Divorced Yet?

By River Braun, J.D.

Can I Get Child Support If I'm Not Divorced Yet?

By River Braun, J.D.

If you are separated from your spouse, you may be entitled to court-ordered child support payments if you have primary custody of your child. Parents are expected to financially support their children even when they are unmarried, separated, or divorced. Courts take child support very seriously. Although laws vary by state, each state has guidelines or formulas that judges use to calculate parents' obligations to the child.

Woman holding a young child and his teddy bear while talking on the phone and filling out paperwork

Temporary Orders Granting Child Support Before Divorce

In most cases, a request for temporary child support is requested when a party files a petition for divorce. However, if you are not ready to file your divorce complaint, you may file a motion for temporary child support payments. Filing your request for financial assistance as soon as possible is wise because the courts may not able to hear your case in a timely manner. Additionally, child support payments may not be retroactive to the date of separation with your spouse.

Some states have established specific agencies to enforce child support obligations. If you do not have an attorney, you may want to contact your local child support enforcement agency. It may be able to help you obtain an order for support payments.

Child Support After a Divorce

Once your divorce is finalized, the judge enters a final order regarding child support. Payments are based on the final custody order and visitation arrangement. The court typically awards support to the parent with primary physical custody of the child. However, payments may be lessened based on the number of nights that the child spends with the parent paying child support.

In addition to custody and visitation, judges can break from the standard child support guidelines, provided they explain why they are doing so. For example, a judge may take into account the special needs of a child, private school tuition, and each parties' standard of living when calculating support obligations. State law dictates the circumstances under which a judge can deviate from the normal arrangements.

Modification of a Child Support Order

It may become necessary to modify child support obligations as the child's needs change or the parents' financial situations change. A temporary change in income, such as a brief period of unemployment, typically does not qualify for a change in child support payments. Remarriage is also not usually a reason to change payments. But the birth of a new child for the parent paying support may warrant a modification. If you and your ex are on good terms, simply discussing the change in circumstances may allow you to save money on legal fees.

Most states require that the parent seeking a change in child support proves that a substantial change in circumstances impacts the child's needs or the parent's ability to make support payments. The definition of “substantial" varies by state and is usually defined through decisions made in previous court cases.

Divorces can be fast, relatively easy affairs, or they may be long and drawn out. By requesting child support during a separation, you can ensure your children will be financially supported no matter how long the process takes.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.