Every state legally requires both parents to be financially responsible for their child if they are at all able to do so. If you cannot come to financial terms on your own, family court can help. Unfortunately, you may have to fight him through the courts to get support. Here are some tips:

*_File now
*_In most states, any support order will be retroactive to the date you file — so the sooner you file, the sooner you are likely to get paid.

*_Gather documentation
*_If you expect the father will fight you in court, or try to under-estimate his earnings, collect all the documentation you can to prove his income. This includes tax returns, pay stubs, bank account statements and any records proving his income or sales. Collect proof of any vacations, expensive purchases and items that show that he can afford to financially support his child.

Do not punish him by restricting visits
Most states separate money matters from custody issues, and you should too. Even if you are angry at him, do not threaten to restrict his access to his children.

Don’t budget for support
If your ex has a history of not paying his bills — and child support in particular — do not build your lifestyle around that MIA income. It may seem unfair, but it is not realistic to budget for money that you have a real possibility of never seeing.

If he doesn’t comply, get serious
If your child’s father does not comply with court-ordered support, consider initiating court enforcement. This can include interception of tax refunds, wage garnishment, seizing of property — including a car or home – and, in some cases, revoking a driver’s license or even jail time.

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Think twice before going to a lawyer
Family court is usually a DIY affair, designed for parents to file for child support on their own. Lawyers can be helpful, but they are very expensive. Consider the cost of hiring an attorney versus the sum you are likely to collect against you child’s father. In some cases, this is a good investment, or a measured risk. Other times it may make sense to either seek out free legal services through the court or a related organization, or simply do it yourself.

Check yourself
It may feel very unfair that you are left fully responsible for the physical, emotional and financial care of your child. Do your very best to hold your ex responsible for any money you feel he owes his child. But keep your time, energy and money in check. If you are not winning the battle, and the income you could receive is not significant, you may choose to spend your efforts instead on building a career of your own where you could earn far more than you receive in child support.

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