Do men ever get child support after a divorce?

Yes. Both parents have an obligation to care for young children, and this includes financial obligations.

If one parent takes primary custody, the other parent is generally required to make child support payments to help cover reasonable costs associated with raising the child (including healthcare, clothing, food, and other essential expenses).

Little girl hugging her father while annoyed mother looks on

Parents cannot avoid their obligations on the basis of their gender, and according to the letter of the law, men are just as likely to receive child support as women. However, in reality, that’s not the case. According to the U.S. Census, in 2013, 5,879,000 custodial mothers had child support child support agreements or awards, compared to only 739,000 custodial fathers.

Several issues help to explain this:

  • Women are more likely to maintain primary custody of their children. The idea that mothers always retain custody is a myth. While mothers had significant legal advantages in the early 20th century, modern custody standards award custody to the parent who provides a better environment for the child (often with visitation rights or shared custody arrangements to accommodate the other parent). The vast majority of custody cases aren’t decided by the courts, but rather through mediation or private arrangements.
    However, in American culture, mothers often act as the primary caregivers to their children, and they tend to retain primary custody during separations, especially when couples make voluntary custody arrangements.
    According to the Census, in 2013, 82 percent of custodial parents were mothers. That’s a huge percentage—and because the custodial parent always receives the child support, the fact that men rarely take primary custody creates a significant disparity between the sexes.
  • Men usually make more money than women. Child support payments are partially based on income disparities between the partners. The court will consider the income of each parent, determine the financial needs of the child, and assess factors like the child’s standard of living and the needs of the custodial and non-custodial parent.
    Men generally make more money than women in the United States, so they’re more likely to pay more, even when sharing custody 50-50 with their ex-partners.
  • Some men may not file for child support. In 2013, 53.1 percent of custodial mothers were awarded child support, compared with 31.4 percent of custodial fathers. Many of these parents make arrangements without involving the court, and it’s logical to assume that many fathers never bother filing in the first place, either due to social stigma or a belief that the courts won’t award them payments.

Any custodial parent can file for child support, and in most states, it’s a fairly simple process. The first step is to contact your nearest child support office (in some states, you can also apply online). Not all parents will receive child support, but the genders of the parents will not affect the court’s ruling.

Note that this answer is not intended as legal advice. If you’re involved in custody disputes or if you’re seeking child support from a partner, the safest course of action is to contact a qualified attorney in your state.