Child Support Lawsuit

Most cases of child support and custody do not come down to lawsuits. Parents can usually make arrangements with lawyers out of court or in family court, resulting in a court order. Only when an agreement cannot be reached does it end in a child support lawsuit.

What is a Child Support Lawsuit?

Child support is the basic financial support a non-custodial parent must pay to the custodial parent to provide for the child’s needs. The parent with full or majority custody typically receives payment from the other parent. If parents have joint custody, the parent who earns more may be obligated to provide support.

There are laws, processes, and a court system for settling child support cases when two parents cannot agree on payments. The process depends on state laws but is overseen by the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE). The OCSE ensures that parents can go through the court system to get a fair and enforceable child support order.[1]

Do I Need to Sue the Non-Custodial Parent to Get Child Support?

No, suing is not usually necessary. If you and the other parent cannot agree on child support arrangements, your lawyers can take you through the process of getting court-ordered support. The system is in place to allow custodial parents to get the financial support they need for the child without extensive lawsuits.

When Should I Start a Child Support Lawsuit?

If you have tried to come to an agreement and get a court-ordered child support arrangement and failed, it may end in a lawsuit. A judge may order a trial to hear both sides and determine who owes support, if any, and, if so, how much.

This is an unusual situation, and it is not one that most parents find themselves in. Your lawyer can help you through the entire process of getting child support. If it comes down to a trial, your lawyer will represent you before the judge and make a case for what the other parent owes your child.

How is Child Support Enforced?

Rather than starting lawsuits against parents not paying support, the system has built-in strategies for enforcement. If the other parent is not paying, the court can take steps to force payment under the Child Support Enforcement Act of 1984.

The district attorney serves the delinquent parent, who must then meet to set up arrangements for payment. Failure to follow through can result in wage garnishment, seized property, withheld tax refunds, and even jail time.

What is a Paternity Lawsuit?

A father may refuse to pay child support, claiming he is not the child’s biological father. The mother can bring a paternity suit against him, forcing him to undergo genetic testing. If he is the biological parent, the mother can then go ahead with seeking child support.[2]

Should I Sue to Increase Child Support Payments?

If you have a court order for child support and believe you should be getting more, there is no need to file a child support lawsuit. Instead, you will go to the family court, the one that approved the original order and request a modification.

Your lawyer can help you make a written request and prove that circumstances have changed and that you need more support for your child. The court will determine if those changes justify an increase. Some examples of changes that may qualify include:

  • A change in the child’s needs that requires more support, such as a medical condition, disability, or learning difficulty
  • An increase in earnings for the parent providing support
  • The custodial parent has lost a job or become disabled and unable to work
  • The child is now spending more time with the custodial parent

Can an Adult Child Sue a Parent for Support?

Despite court orders and legal enforcement efforts, some children never get the support they are entitled to, or they get less than they should have. When that child turns 18, they may be interested in collecting back child support.

Unfortunately, the adult child cannot generally sue for back support. This is because the support was originally to be paid to the parent raising the child, not the child. The non-custodial parent owes back support to the custodial parent, not the child.

An exception to this is if the child is in control of the custodial parent’s estate. If the parent died or is incapacitated, and the adult child manages the estate, they can sue for back child support. Even in this case, it is not a simple task, so it’s important to rely on an experienced lawyer.

Taking legal action over child support is all too often necessary. Even when parents begin amicably, negotiations can fall apart and require lawyers or even the court system’s assistance. A lawsuit is not typical but rely on a child support lawyer to help you determine what you should do next to get financial support for your child.

  1. National Conference of State Legislatures. (2013, April 1). Child Support 101: State Administration.
    Retrieved from:
  2. Cornell Law School. Legal Information Institute. (n.d.). Paternity Suit.
    Retrieved from:,usually%20proved%20by%20genetic%20testing.