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Facts and Misconceptions About Child Support

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Child support can be a heavily litigated matter in any divorce case. In many family law cases, child support is a matter of calculations, but the truth is that it will be awarded based on the child’s best interests. Everything else is considered secondary.

We’ve had to clear a lot of facts and myths throughout our time, offering a support system to families who’ve gone through a divorce.

Both parents carry the legal duty of supporting a minor child, even if the custodial parent is capable of supporting the child singlehandedly. If this is confusing, check out these facts and misconceptions about child support.

Fact #1: There’s a Formula Used to Calculate Child Support

calculate child support

This is true. Each state has its own formula that considers factors on what a parent will owe the custodial parent, including both parents’ gross incomes, medical, dental, and visual insurance, school tuition expenses, counseling and travel expenses, time spent with the child, etc.

Remember, only a few expenses will be considered when calculating. Most guidelines will only consider the regular take-home pay after payroll deductions and taxes. Besides, health insurance for the child and daycare costs might also be considered.

However, if you’re paying for a mortgage that is out of your price range, you won’t be getting any child support payment breaks.

Myth #1: Only One Parent Is Responsible For Child Support Payments

Always remember that both parents are responsible for the financial well-being of a child, and each parent must shoulder part of the support based on their income. Similarly, parents cannot ‘agree’ to waive child support payments on their own because this right belongs to the child and not the custodial parent. Once the child attains the age of a legal adult, the payments aren’t necessary.

But in the meantime, the parents must enforce the child’s rights to child support.

Fact #2: Failure to Pay Child Support Has Serious Consequences, Including Jail Time

Child support consequences Jail time

This is another fact about child support. The law considers child support to be an inherent parental duty, no matter the circumstances. In the U.S., not honoring child support payments is a criminal offense.

If the courts determine that you pay a certain amount for child support but fail to do so, it has the power to garnish tax returns and wages, withhold unemployment benefits, charge interest for any late payments, and revoke a driver’s license, and even order jail time.

This is often a debt that cannot merely be discharged through bankruptcy.

Misconception #2: Child Support Is a One-Month Payment

Most people going through divorce fail to realize that child support is a continuous process of negotiations and communication between the parties. The non-custodial parent is will most likely be required to pay a fixed monthly payment plus negotiated incremental expenses as the child grows and develops.

Fact #3: Payments Aren’t Necessarily Spent Directly On the Child

Apart from child support money covering basic needs like food, clothing, education, and shelter, the funds can also be used to settle house bills, cater to housing costs, and any childcare payments for working parents.

Misconception #3: The Jobless Are Exempted From Paying Child Support

As seen in fact 2, you’re financially obligated to meet your child’s financial needs even if you don’t have a job. Payments aren’t suspended but deferred and must be cleared if you lose your source of income or employment. The owed amount might change in the period you stay unemployed for an extended period. But this is not a reason to be let off from child support obligations.

Fact #4: Child Support Is Modifiable

Child support payments can be revised up or down, depending on the figures. The parent who’s requesting the modification will be required to prove significant changes in circumstances if they both don’t agree on this modification. Reasons such as losing one’s job increased expenses due to a child’s ill health, or the pay rise of a parent can be considered. However, a child growing by themselves is not a reason to request a modification of child support.

All changes in child support payments have to be done with a court order. Even if the parents agree to these modifications, the agreement has to be memorialized in writing and forwarded for court approval. Otherwise, the paying parent is at risk of being sued by the custodial parent for not paying up child support in the event they reduce child support without informing the courts.

Misconception #4: There Is a National Rule for Child Support

Every state has different methods and formulas for calculating child support. For instance, California has a relatively complicated formula that takes into account a parent’s parenting time, expenses, and income, versus Texas where there’s a flat percentage of net income that a non-custodial parent ought to pay. So, the same case in different states can bring out different child support outcomes.

While each state is different, three basic models are followed: income share, flat percentage, and Melson formula. Income share is often based on both parents’ income, a flat rate is based on the income of the non-custodial parent, while the Melson formula considers factors such as a child’s needs. It’s always best to hire an experienced family lawyer to explain each model and which one your state employs.

These are some of the misconceptions and facts about child support we thought you should know. 

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Mike Mwangi

Most people will agree with me that divorce is a very difficult time. And for me, I’ve taken the path of helping people through this transition of life by giving them information that will make their lives a lot less stressful as they adjust. I work in a legal research role with Divorce Mistakes Network and have assisted leading law firms with research and delivering relevant content for those facing divorce. Whether lawyer, law firm, or other divorce-related professionals (mediators, financial advisors, accountants, therapists, counselors, etc) I help bridge the gap between legal minds and those affected by divorce. Let’s connect with ideas for content that helps everyone successfully conquer divorce.

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