Deciding whether or not to file for child support can be a difficult task. You might be worried that asking for child support will encourage your child's other parent to ask for more parenting time or shared custody—among other potentially complicated situations. However, with the right information, you can make the choice that's best for you and, most importantly, your child.
If you're not sure when you should file for child support or if it's the best choice for your situation, here are six things to think about before making the decision.
1. Your child has the right to be financially supported by both of their parents.
Whether you want to file for child support or not, it's actually your child's right to receive it. Plus, if they're legally recognized as the child of their other parent, it also opens the door for them to receive additional benefits like Social Security and health care through this parent's employer.
2. Ask yourself if you can support your child on your own without child support.
If you can't fully support your child on your own, then filing for child support is a necessity. It's also important to remember that you won't be eligible for government assistance if you're a single parent and have chosen not to file for child support.
3. Consider whether you will be able to afford future expenses.
Look ahead. Will you be able to pay for your child's extra-curricular activities, their medical and dental care, or their college tuition down the line? Even if you can squeak by without child support right now, you might want to file for it so that you know you'll be able to pay for these types of future expenses.
4. Ask yourself how you feel about having the other parent actively participate in your child’s life.
This is an issue that many single parents worry about. Part of the process of filing for child support involves proving paternity and once paternity is established, that may allow your child's other parent to exercise some previously-ignored parental rights, like visitation. However, in most cases, more involvement between a child and both of their parents is a positive experience. Plus, refusing to file for child support out of fear won't guarantee that your child's other parent won't someday exercise his or her parental rights, anyway.
5. Read up on your state’s child custody laws.
It's helpful to know your state's child custody laws so there aren't any surprises. In fact, if your child's other parent is threatening to file for shared custody if you ask for child support, your familiarity with the actual child custody statutes in your state may put your mind at ease.
6. Consider your child's needs.
This is the single most important factor to consider when deciding whether or not to file for child support. Ensuring that your child's needs are being met comes before anything else (although, you already know that). Just be sure to base your decision on actual facts—not worries or rumors of what you may have heard happened to another parent you know.
At the end of the day, remember that you don’t have to file for child support right now. You can always decide to file later. However, the process is lengthy and it may be several months before you can actually receive any funds so it's important to consider your current and anticipated needs, as well as all of these factors.