What are the steps in filing for child support?

Question: My ex lives in Illinois and my son and I live in Kansas. My ex has not paid any child support.

I would like to file for child support. How do I do this? What are the steps in the process?



There are several steps to take in filing for child support, the first of which is to read your divorce decree to determine what support, if any, the court ordered. Then, ask yourself, Have circumstances changed since the court order such that I should receive child support now?

For example, has your ex-spouse’s income increased? Has yours decreased? Has yours increased such that you might owe him support? This is because the amount of each parent’s child support is usually a proportionate share of that parent’s income in relation to both parents’ income for each overnight. Most states have mandatory or recommended child support formulas to calculate this amount. Strange as it may seem, a parent with a higher income may end up paying child support even though he has his child (and supports his child on his time) as often as the other parent.

However, most states will allow parents to motion for or consensually opt-out of the statutory amount under certain conditions. If he was ordered to pay support and has sizable arrears, you may consider contacting your child support administrator (or the entity responsible for colleting support) to learn about enforcement mechanisms, such as license suspensions and arrest warrants, based on the amount of arrears. The third step is to determine where to file.

Unfortunately, I do not have enough facts to answer this question. In general, the court retains continuing, exclusive jurisdiction to enforce and modify that order. However, if the child has resided in a different state for at least 6 months, then the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) may apply. If the UCCJEA applies, then the motioning parent may file an action in the child’s current state to request that the prior state’s court relinquish its control. There are certain other details and alternatives to consider, such as whether the child has substantial connections to the new state, that go beyond the limitations of this question-and-answer forum.

Keep in mind that I am a Michigan attorney and cannot give you detailed advice about the laws in Texas. I can only give you general information in this answer. You should not rely on this answer as establishing an attorney-client relationship, and you should contact an attorney in your area immediately if you need additional information or legal representation, as most parties in divorces do. Cordell & Cordell has offices in Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas.


Jennifer M. Paine is an Associate Attorney in the Detroit, Michigan office of Cordell & Cordell P.C. She is licensed to practice in Michigan, and has been admitted pro hac vice in Illinois, Ohio, and the United States Court of Federal Claims. Ms. Paine received her BA in English and Mathematics from Albion College and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She received her Juris Doctorate from MSU College of Law and graduated Summa Cum Laude.

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