Delaware Child Support Guide
Child Support Eligibility
Under Delaware law, both parents have a duty to support their child until the child is 18 years of age, or, if the child is still in high school, until the child graduates or turns 19 years of age, whichever comes first.
A support action begins when one parent files a support petition, requesting the Court to order the other parent to pay child support. After the petition is filed, the Court may order genetic testing to establish paternity, if necessary. Most parents seeking support are represented by the Division of Child Support enforcement (DCSE). In those cases, DCSE files all actions and pursues administrative remedies also. After filing a Petition for Child Support, the first time that individuals come to Family Court for a child support order, they must attend a mediation conference. A Family Court mediator will use the Delaware Child Support Formula to calculate the support amount and try to help the parents reach an agreement as to a support amount. If parents cannot reach an agreement at the mediation conference, a temporary order may issue and a hearing before a Commissioner will occur either on the same day or on a future date.
The amount of child support is set using the Delaware Child Support Formula, sometimes called the “Melson Formula”. The formula considers both parents’ incomes and the needs of the child in arriving at a monthly figure. The formula is used in every case to ensure that the amount is fair and that children receive enough support.
If a parent fails to pay support as ordered, DCSE or the person entitled to receive support may file a petition for “arrears”. At the hearing, an additional amount may be added to the order and remedies such as license suspension or incarceration may be considered. Attachment of wages is the most common remedy and will occur upon identification of an employer.
Paternity or parentage establishment means determining the parent of a child. If a child’s parents were not married or in a civil marriage/union when the child was born, the law does not recognize the other parent unless paternity/parentage is legally established. Establishing paternity/parentage will give your child the same rights and benefits as children born to married parents. These rights and benefits include:
- Other parent’s name is on the birth certificate
- Legal proof and identity of the child’s parents
- Family medical history (helpful with inherited health issues)
- Medical or life insurance from either parent (if available)
- Financial support from both parents, including child support, inheritance, military allowances, social security, and/or veteran benefits.
Establishing paternity/parentage gives both parents legal rights to:
- Seek a court order for child support.
- Seek a court order for custody or visitation.
- Have a say in certain legal decisions about the child.
The easiest way to establish paternity is administratively (without going to court) via the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) program whereby both biological parents sign a legal document, agreeing the child is theirs. When unmarried parents sign the VAP, the parent’s names will be placed on the birth certificate by the Office of Vital statistics. If either parent changes their mind, they have 60 days to appeal. .
If a couple wishes to sign a VAP, but is not sure who the biological father is, the mother, father, and child(ren) should obtain a paternity (genetic or DNA) test. The test can show up to 99% probability whether a man is the child’s biological father. Delaware’s Private Paternity Testing Program offers a discounted rate of $100 per person, for a total of $300 per test trio: Mother, child and alleged father.
Establishment of a Child Support Order
The Division of Child Support will ask the Family Court of the State of Delaware to establish a child support order if none exists. Family Court will then establish a child support order that sets a monthly amount of money to be paid by a non-custodial parent to a custodial parent for the support of their child. Family Court determines the amount of support and a medical support order may also be established on behalf of the child.
Modification of Existing Child Support Orders
The Division of Child Support files petitions in the Family Court of the State of Delaware for child support, modification of support orders, and enforcement of support orders. Family Court will accept a petition for modification if it has been two-and-a-half years or more since the last child support order. No petition for modification may be filed within two-and-a-half years, unless there has been a substantial change in circumstances.
When a petition for modification is filed, it is assigned first to mediation. If an agreement cannot be reached, a hearing will be scheduled before a Family Court Commissioner. The order will be modified based on the Delaware Child Support Formula Calculation. There will be no modification of an order filed within two-and-a-half years, unless the calculation indicates a change (upward or downward) of 10% or greater.
If a parent does not pay child support as ordered, and a petition for enforcement of the order is filed, a mediation conference will be scheduled. If a second or any subsequent enforcement petitions are filed, they will be assigned to a Family Court Commissioner or Judge.
Obligations of Child Support
Both parents have a duty to support a child until the child is 18 years of age; or, if the child is still in high school until the child graduates or attains age 19, whichever occurs first. This is true regardless of whether the parents are, were, or never married.
Location of Non-Custodial Parent
In order to establish or enforce a child support order, DCSE must know where to find the parent responsible for support. The applicant is our best resource in attempting to locate the non-custodial parent. DCSE will attempt to locate the non-custodial parent anywhere in the United States.
Child Support Payments
The collection and disbursement of child support payments is the responsibility of the Division of the Child Support Enforcement. Payments can be paid and received in various forms including checks, money orders, and electronic fund transfers paid directly by the non-custodial parent. Payments can also be received through an income withholding order collected by the employer from the non-custodial parents’ pay check. Payments may also be received through a variety of enforcement methods. Enforcement payments are received by check or electronic funds transfer from various government agencies, private sources, insurance companies, and financial institutions and are credited to the individual accounts.
Registration of Out of State Order
To register an out-of-state child support order in Delaware, you must complete
an Affidavit and Request to Register a Foreign Support Order. You must file
this form, along with two copies of the most recent foreign support order, one of
which must be certified by the Court that issued it.
Enforcement of Child Support Obligations
Non-custodial parents who do not pay child support established by court order are subject to enforcement measures to collect regular and past-due payments. The Division of Child Support Enforcement has broad authority to collect and enforce the payment of child support, which include:
- Consumer Reporting – Child support debt is reported to consumer reporting agencies, which can affect the noncustodial parent’s credit rating.
- Court Processing – Cooperating with the court in the issuance of Capiases, also known as arrest warrants.
- Federal Case Registry – National database that includes all child support cases handled by State IV-D child support agencies.
- Income Withholding Orders – Employers are ordered to deduct child support from the noncustodial parent.
- License Suspension – Suspending a non-custodial parent’s license including: Delaware driver licenses, hunting and fishing licenses, occupational and professional licenses.
- Lottery Intercept – Intercepting Delaware Lottery winnings.
- Passport Denial – Passports are denied to any non-custodial parent who owes $2,500 or more in past due child support.
- Tax Intercept – Intercepting State and Federal Tax Refunds.
- Unemployment Compensation – Withholding of Unemployment Compensation
Military Service Modification of Child Support
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)
If you are called to active duty, you are protected under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), formerly called the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act. The purpose of the SCRA is to allow United States military personnel to devote their full attention to the defense of our nation by temporarily suspending judicial and administrative civil proceedings that may impact their rights. In some instances, your military service activation may make you eligible for a change in your child support order during your time of service. If you feel that you qualify, you may ask the court to modify your order by filing a motion to modify.
Financial Assistance and Resources:
NEW 2-1-1 and DELAWARE HELPLINE – 1-800-464-HELP(4357).
A NEW 2-1-1 telephone number, is now available 8:00am to 8:00pm, Monday through Friday, and connects Delawareans with Health and Human Service Providers who can assist with issues such as affordable housing, after-school programs, care for senior citizens, child care, financial assistance, food banks, health resources, job training programs, legal assistance, mental health resources, rent assistance, and much more.
Note: The foregoing information is provided as general child support law guidelines in DELAWARE and should not be considered as legal advice specific to your case. After reviewing the above material, you will be presented with the opportunity to submit more details specific to your case directly to
About The Children.
Submitted by Linda O’Marie, Paralegal