Families Change
Parent Guide to Separation & Divorce

You are here

What is Child Support?

Previous Next

Parents have a legal responsibility to support their children financially.  Both parents are responsible for supporting their children according to their abilities. This is your duty even when you separate or divorce. So you need to think about child support as soon as you separate.  While all the other long-term details of the separation and divorce get worked out, children still need a regular routine. They need to be fed, housed and clothed.

You may have an informal agreement about child support before you start your court case. This is a good thing for the children.  But the court will also expect to formalize child support in a Court Order.  In most cases, everyone agrees who the children’s parents are and, so, who is responsible.  But in those cases where “parentage” is a disputed issue, the Court must first decide who must provide support. Learn more here about determining “parentage.”

The court will use Maine’s child support guidelines to determine which parent(s) will pay support and how much that support will be.  We explain more about how this works in the “How do we calculate…?” section below.

Child support is the right of every child. It is not the right of either parent. A parent cannot agree to “give up” receiving child support just because they don’t want to deal with the other parent. When parents separate, the law says they are both responsible for the costs of raising their children. This is the case even if a parent has never lived with the children or the other parent.

Child support is not the same as spousal support. Child support is money paid for the benefit of the child – not the parent who receives the child support payment. Child support is not a fee that is paid in exchange for spending time with the children. Whatever the parenting arrangements may be, children have the right to receive child support.

The next section explains how you calculate the amount of child support.