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What Do You Need to Know About Child Support?

Everyone has heard about child support. We all either pay it, receive it, or know someone who does. Vermont has a whole department for collecting it - the Office of Child Support. You may have heard about "deadbeat dads" who don't pay their child support, because politicians and television news stories love to chatter about that topic. You may have heard that you could lose your driver's license if you don't pay your child support.


If you’re reading this page, you probably have some questions about child support, either because you are either going to be paying or receiving it sometime soon.


Here's what you need to know:


What is Child Support?

Child support is a payment from the parent who has fewer overnights with the kids to the parent who has more overnights.


The first question for figuring out child support is which parent has physical responsibilities for the kids. For purposes of child support, all this means is which parent has more overnight visits. After that, the judge or magistrate will use the child support guideline in most cases to set an amount of child support.


Once you know how many overnights you will have with your kids, most of the time your child support figure will be decided using the "child support guideline." This is a formula used by the Office of Child Support (often called "OCS"). If you know your monthly income, the other parent's monthly income, and how many overnights you have, you can figure out yourself how much the child support will probably be. Check it out here.


Exceptions to the Child Support Guidelines

Of course, there are exceptions to the guideline amounts. There are always exceptions! Here are some reasons why a magistrate or judge might change the guideline amount in your case. This is called a “deviation” from the guideline. The most common reasons to deviate from the guideline are

  1. where a child has unusually expensive needs, such as expensive educational or healthcare needs, or mobility challenges

  2. where the parent paying child support lives far away and needs expensive travel (plane tickets!) to visit the children

  3. where one parent is going back to school to increase their earning potential.


Who Decides Child Support?

First, the magistrate decides the child support amount as part of a temporary order. This might happen because you agreed on child support at a case manager's conference and the magistrate signed your agreement. Otherwise, it will happen at a hearing with the magistrate to determine parental responsibilities and child support.


Once there is a temporary order, the judge may change the child support amount either because you agreed to a final amount with the other parent or after a final hearing. Depending on the judge, you may need to go back to the magistrate to get a final Child Support Order.


Related Questions:

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