When a parent or guardian caring for children requests, or is receiving, public assistance, the state requires that the other parent fulfill his or her financial responsibilities toward their biological children. Whether the state welfare agency receives a new application for such public assistance as food stamps, welfare benefits, or Medicaid benefits, or is being asked to enforce a current child support order, a Notice and Finding of Financial Responsibility is legally served on the other biological parent.
The form orders that parent to pay child support, and ensure the children are covered under his or her medical insurance. In the event the other parent is the father, and contests the issue of paternity, the form orders him to take a paternity test. To explore this concept, consider the following Notice and Finding of Financial Responsibility definition.
Definition of Notice and Finding of Financial Responsibility
- An official notice served to a non-custodial parent after the state assumes he or she should be financially responsible for a child.
According to the laws in every state, both parents are required to be financially responsible for their children. Commonly, the non-custodial parent is ordered to pay a specific amount of child support to the custodial parent each month to help pay for the child’s needs. The amount of child support to be paid is set by the court, and cannot be waived by either parent, as this financial support is the right of the child, not the parent. In addition to monthly child support payments, the non-custodial parent is usually ordered to pay one-half of the child’s medical, dental, educational, daycare, and extracurricular activity expenses.
In most cases, child support is terminated when the child reaches the age of majority, 18 in most states. Child support may, however, continue past the age of majority, if the child is attending college full time. If this is expected, it will be explicitly stated in the court order.
Service of a Notice and Finding of Financial Responsibility
There are many circumstances in which a parent may be served with a Notice and Finding of Financial Responsibility. These include:
- The state has made an order for child support
- The custodial parent requests or receives public assistance
- A request for support is made by a different state or federal agency
Service of a Notice and Finding of Financial Responsibility must be accomplished in the same what that a civil summons is served. The manner of service is defined in the laws and code of civil procedure of each state. In many states, service of a Notice and Finding of Financial Responsibility can be made by an employee of the agency, through the use of certified mail, or other mail service with delivery confirmation. Other states require the Notice to be personally served by a process server, deputy sheriff, or constable.
What is Included in the Notice and Finding of Financial Responsibility
While the laws of each state specify what must be included in the official Notice and Finding of Financial Responsibility, information commonly required in the Notice includes:
- Name of the child for whom support is to be paid
- Name and the child’s caretaker – this may be the custodial parent, a guardian, or an agency
- A statement of the monthly child support amount due
- A statement of the past due child support
- A notification that the parent may be required to provide health insurance coverage for the child
In many cases, the paternity of the child for whom benefits have been requested has already been established. If paternity is in question, the Notice will provide information about the mother’s claim of paternity, as well as establishing paternity through evidentiary findings or DNA testing.
Calculating Child Support
Each state has specific guidelines on the method used in calculating child support. In some jurisdictions, the judge has some leeway in determining the actual amount of child support that will be awarded, as long as it meets the guidelines of the laws in the state. The primary factors considered in calculating child support include:
- The incomes and expenses of each parent
- The tax status of each parent
- The amount of time the children spend with each parent
- The child’s standard of living before the separation or divorce
- The special needs of a child
- Child support obligations for children of another relationship
Failure to Pay Child Support
When a court orders a parent to pay child support, the order is legally enforceable, and failure to pay subjects that parent to serious legal consequences. The specific consequences for failure to pay child support vary by state, but generally include wage garnishment, tax liens, loss of professional license, suspension of driver’s license, or even jail time. For example, a parent seriously behind on child support payments in Missouri may be subject to a misdemeanor or felony conviction. That parent will likely lose any business or professional license held, and may be placed on probation, or may be held in jail, depending on the amount of child support is past due.
Related Legal Terms and Issues
- Authority – The right or power to make decisions, to give orders, or to control something or someone.
- Custody – The protective care of something, or someone.
- Divorce – The legal termination of a marriage.