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Questions about child support get even more complicated when a parent dies. Do child support payments continue even after a parent's death? What is the protocol supposed to be?
While child custody laws vary by state, the general answer is that child support does continue after a parent's death. There is a very strong public policy reason for the child to continue being cared for in the manner agreed upon. This, of course, will require a modification to the child support order after the death of a parent.
Where does child support come from after a parent dies? Courts generally look to a few sources.
Life Insurance and Social Security
The first place that child support can usually be derived from the deceased parent's life insurance policy. Usually, the parent names his children as beneficiaries; if that's the case, now would be the time to collect.
Life insurance payments are especially crucial if the parent had no other assets or source of income. Insurance policies are meant to protect their living survivors and to help in case of premature death.
Social Security can also very well be garnished for child support payments. This would require going to court to file the proper documents, but child support generally ranks very high on the hierarchy of where payments are doled out to.
The Parent's Estate
Child support payments can also come out of the decedent's estate through his assets. This includes things like a house, any cars he owned, and bank accounts.
What's important to remember about going after the parent's estate however, is that this requires a timely filing of a creditor's claim against their estate. Child support, again, is usually atop the pecking order when an estate is distributed, but there is a particular process involved. It's best to contact an experienced probate attorney to help you through this process.
Noncustodial or Custodial?
Lastly, if you are currently a noncustodial parent (in other words, your child is not living with you) but you would like to now become the custodial parent after the death of the other parent, this is possible in many cases. A child custody modification would need to be made through court.