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

By Heather Frances J.D.

All parents are legally obligated to support their children, regardless of whether the parents are married, but most married parents don't try to put a child support order in place until they start thinking about divorce. It is possible to receive child support while you are still married, but you will have to follow your state’s procedures to receive it, which may involve filing a request with the court.

Child Support Before Divorce

The custodial parent doesn't have to file for divorce before beginning a child support case. If you and your spouse aren’t ready to initiate a divorce yet, the custodial parent may file a complaint or petition with the court to establish a child support order. Your state’s child support enforcement agency or local prosecutor may offer assistance with filing this complaint. Child support is not typically retroactive to the date of separation, so the earlier you file, the more money you can receive.

Custody and Visitation Before Divorce

Because the amount of child support usually hinges on the court's distribution of parenting time, custody and visitation will also be addressed in the petition and child support order, even if the order is issued before a divorce is final. While the court’s custody and visitation determination is not permanent, the court may base the final custody and visitation order on the temporary one established prior to the divorce.

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Pendente Lite Orders

When a divorce case has been filed, a court may enter temporary orders, called “pendente lite” orders, to decide such issues as alimony and child support while the divorce is pending. With these temporary orders, a custodial parent can get a child support order within weeks after filing for divorce. You will likely have to ask the court for a temporary child support order by filing a pendente lite motion. Once the order is issued, it can be enforced like any other court order.

Changing a Child Support Order

A pendente lite child support order may be similar to the final order set forth in the divorce decree, unless custody arrangements change or a parent suffers a significant change of financial circumstances during the pendency of the divorce. Such changes in circumstances could impact the court’s application of the state’s child support guidelines, so the amount of support will need to be recalculated before the final order is issued. If circumstances change after the divorce is final, your state may allow a child support order modification.

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Legal Separation & Child Support

References

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When Does Child Support Start in a Divorce in Georgia?

Parents are responsible for supporting their children financially before and after divorce, but many parents do not have an order requiring them to pay child support until they go to court for their divorce. Courts can order a parent to pay child support before the divorce is final, though support orders can be modified later when circumstances change.

Virginia Law on Modification of Final Divorce Decrees

In Virginia, ex-spouses may modify spousal support, child support or custody if circumstances have changed since the time of divorce. The procedure for changing any part of the divorce decree begins with filing a petition with the court and stating your reasons why you think the existing order should be changed. The court may then schedule a hearing, allowing both former spouses to provide their side of the story.

How to Get a Fast Divorce in Louisiana

Once you have made the decision to divorce your spouse, it's not unusual to want the process to end as soon as possible. Although it may be a challenge, getting a fast divorce in Louisiana is not impossible. The best way to do so is by filing for a no-fault divorce and working with your spouse to create a marital settlement agreement, in which all marital issues are resolved, such as division of property, child support and custody, and alimony. By doing so, you reduce the likelihood of delay and may get your divorce decree faster.

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