If you are involved in a divorce with children from the marriage, and for unwed parents who break up, you or the courts will first make a decision regarding the child's custody, then may award child support to one parent to aid in the upbringing of the child.
Courts need to make sure that the best interests of the child are always met, and this includes providing financial stability for the parent who is raising the child. Child support payments will help pay for basic necessities for the child, as well as the child's overall wellbeing. Basic needs include food, clothing, and shelter such as rent or mortgage payments, medical care, uninsured medical expenses, educational fees such as school tuition, books and related costs, childcare for working parents, and transportation both for leisure and necessities.
In addition, child support includes costs associated with entertainment and extracurricular activities such as summer camps, sports equipment and league fees, and club fees. Even after a child has reached the age of majority, if attending college full time, a non-custodial parent is expected to contribute to college expenses as well.
Although child support payments are initially determined by the courts based on factors at the time of the decision, conditions may change for either parent or the child. If there is a change in the financial situation of either parent or the child, a parent may request a modification of the existing agreement. This will also be considered and altered, based on the opinion of the courts.
Source: findlaw.com, "Child Support Basics," Accessed Sept. 22, 2015