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Are victims of domestic violence at risk seeking child support?

Parents have the legal obligation to provide support for the education and maintenance of their offspring in the event that they divorce or end relationships with their children's other parent.

When one parent fails to honor that obligation, the child's other parent or guardian can pursue that parent through the court system to establish and collect support for their children.

Sometimes a child support action is generated by the custodial parent's application for certain government benefits, such as Medicaid or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, which was formerly referred to as "welfare."

Federal law requires that parents seeking these benefits assist with establishing and collecting support for their dependent children. They must also agree to sign over their rights to the support that state agencies collect in lieu of the benefits that they and their children receive.

But parents don't have to be eligible for or apply for government benefits to pursue child support from their children's non-custodial parents. Custodial parents on any points of the economic spectrum have the right to collect child support from non-custodial parents.

What parents cannot do, however, is withhold visitation of the children with their non-custodial parents due to the parents' failure to pay their support. Doing so when there is a court-approved visitation order in place can get the custodial parent in trouble.

However, if domestic violence was taking place in the relationship and the custodial parent flees from the abuser, the child support process can make the victim vulnerable to additional abuse.

Federal law mandates that states protect personal information available in child support cases if the state possesses "reasonable evidence of domestic violence or child abuse and the disclosure of such [personal] information could be harmful to the parent or child of such parent."

Your family law attorney can assist parents with getting their cases flagged with a family violence indicator to obstruct access to victims' personal data.

Source: National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, "Child Support and Domestic Violence: An Overview," Sarah Smith, JD, accessed Feb. 17, 2017

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