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When parents decide to end their relationship, they need to decide how the children will continue to receive financial support. It’s the parents’ moral and legal responsibility to ensure that provision for the children continues even after they part ways.
Child support ensures that even after a relationship between the parents’ end, the children continue to enjoy all the things they did before. These are things like food, clothing, shelter, good education, and entertainment.
To accurately determine child support, both parents need to agree on who assumes custody. If the parents want to have shared custody, a determination of the percentage of shared responsibility is required.
Child custody is the precursor to child support. It is the only way the custodial parent can make certain decisions regarding the welfare of the children. These are decisions regarding health, education, feeding, and general well-being. If the parents cannot agree on these issues for any reason, then the court has to take charge.
Have you wondered what would happen to your children if you and your spouse decided to call it quits in your marriage?
What is Child Support?
Child support is a legal requirement for children whose parents decide to separate or divorce. The main aim of child support is to offer financial security to the children regardless of the differences between the parents.
Child support can be agreed upon between the parents without involving the courts in some jurisdictions. The agreement becomes legally binding only if contract law is followed and there is no coercion to any of the parties.
How to File for Child Support
The other spouse isn’t obligated to make child support payments if there is no court order. As soon as you file for divorce, if you feel you want child support, you need to make a court order. In the beginning, this is a temporary order for support and will go hand in hand with a temporary custody order.
Upon presenting the family court with evidence and request for support, the family court judge will have to make certain decisions. These decisions revolve around which parent lives with the kids, the percentage of shared custody, if any, and the financial obligation for the paying parent.
After issuing a support order, the paying parent has to meet the financial obligation. It is discouraged that divorced parents have a verbal agreement regarding support for kids.
Under a verbal agreement for child support, the paying parent for any reason can decide to stop making payments. It is very difficult to follow up with the courts because there is no legal court order requiring child support payments.
You can represent yourself in court when working with child support issues. Alternatively, you can go through a child support agency representative or a child support attorney.
It’s best to go for a child support lawyer because they handle the special needs surrounding such a case. Besides, these attorneys have the best interest of your children at heart, and they remain impartial.
When Does Child Support Begin After Divorce?
First things first! The divorce process can take a long time. During this time, who takes care of the children? Does child support begin when the divorce is finalized or during the separation period?
Child support begins immediately after parents file for a divorce—the parent seeking support issues the court with the request normally referred to as the “petition for temporary child support.”
The court acts as quickly as possible, as long as the parents honestly complete all paperwork, answer any objections, and accurately complete all of the income reports and financial requests.
The court process may also experience delays if either parent doesn’t cooperate. However, the court will eventually rule in favor of the children’s best interest.
Who Gets the Payments for Child Support in a Divorce?
If two parents decide to end their relationship, one parent assumes the custodial role. In some cases, some parents may have joint custody. The court usually analyzes all underlying factors before deciding who will have custody of the children.
It’s common for people to assume that the mother automatically lives with the children after the parents separate. Well, these days the roles of parents are changing. Unlike yesteryears, even fathers are assuming the role of primary caregivers.
But, how does child support work if the mother has no job? In this case, the family judge may rule that the mother continues to remain at home taking care of the children like before. Alternatively, the judge may recommend that the mother looks for employment based on the children’s age, her education level, and skills.
The paying parent is obligated to make payments to the other parent. The payments can either be direct or through a child support agency. The method is determined either by an agreement or the state law, depending on where the receiving parent lives when the agreement is entered into.
How much is Child Support?
How much does child support cost is a question we get asked by parents going through a divorce?
The federal law allows each state to set its child support guidelines and calculation procedures. In most cases, the calculations for child support are made based on parents’ income, their expenses, and the time they spend with the children.
The amounts will vary from state to state because judges rule in the best interest of the kids. However, huge considerations are made to accommodate the financial capabilities of the paying parent.
For example, in Oregon, both parents are obligated to meet the minors’ financial needs until they are 18 or beyond if they are still in school. The state provides a child support calculator to help parents filing for divorce to estimate their child’s support share.
You can find a child support calculator online for your state to help you have a rough estimate even before the judge makes the final ruling.
When Does Child Support End?
After divorce, child support normally continues until any combination of the following situations happens.
- The child turns 18 or 21 in some states.
- Payments may continue if the child hasn’t graduated by becoming of legal age.
- A paying parent may continue paying child support if the child has a disability.
- The child gets adopted by another family legally.
- The child joins the military on active duty.
- The child starts earning and supporting themselves before the legal age.
- The child enters a valid marriage.
- The parents, and courts, accept a modification to end support early.
What is Child Support Used for?
Most people think that child support should only cover food, shelter, and clothing. If you’ve been wondering what child support covers, here is a list.
It’s common for children to fall ill, which can take a heavy toll on one parent’s finances. Different states have different methods of determining which parent should pay for health insurance. However, most states will require the parent with better medical insurance from the employer to meet this need.
If you’re unsure, make sure any agreement explicitly states whether health insurance is covered under the support arrangement for the kids. Sometimes health care costs will not be part of child support payments and will be considered a “variable expense” instead.
If the children are in a K-12 private school, the child support payments can take care of fees and items like uniforms. Of course, this is subject to whether that’s part of the agreement or court order.
If the children are in public schools, the funds may cover extracurricular activities, trips, books, food, and a private tutor if needed.
At times parents may divorce while the children are still very young and not yet in school. The funds could be used to pay for daycare services, a nanny, or a babysitter in such situations.
Despite divorcing with kids, the law demands that children are still entitled to everything they have been accustomed to, like entertainment. These are things like games, computers, amusement park visits, cell phones, and cable TV.
What is a Child Support Schedule?
Each state has in place a payment schedule for child support. However, in most cases, the cycle follows the paying parent’s salary schedule. Some employers pay weekly, while others do so on a bi-weekly basis.
The custodial parent receives the money following the schedule. However, the payment cycle doesn’t matter as long as you receive the amount established each month.
Methods Used to Collect Child Support Payments
There are three methods used to collect payments meant for child support.
1) Direct payments
This is the most straightforward payment mode. It involves one parent directly making payments to the other one. The payment may be in the form of cash, check, or money order. The main downside to this method is that it’s almost impossible for the law to intervene in the event of default.
2) Child support enforcement agency
Using an agency is the best way if you don’t want to deal with your ex-spouse directly. This would be the best solution, especially if you had cases of conflict and disagreements when you were together.
The main advantage of using a child support enforcement agency is that they take strict measures against late payments or defaulting on your behalf. Well, of course, you will have to part with some money for agency administration.
3) Wage garnishment
The courts can grant wage garnishment upon request by the receiving parent. Another downside to wage garnishment is that you might not get the full amount ordered by the courts due to fees involved in recovering the funds on your behalf.
You see, an employer is obligated to withhold the child support funds. However, the employer can only withhold 50-60% of the disposable income. The figure is decided upon after the paying parent deducts the expenses.
It implies that if the parent earns $2,000, but expenses take about $1,500, you can only get 50 to 60 percent of the remaining amount.
Joint Legal Custody Child Support
Even if you have equal rights for the children, you still may have to pay child support. When two parents raise their children before separation, there are some shared responsibilities. These responsibilities must be fulfilled for the general well-being of your children.
The child support guidelines aim to bridge the income gap between the parents now that they are leading separate lives but still providing the same things for the children they had before.
Truth be told: some spouses earn way more than others. In such a case, it would be unfair for the children if the custodial parent earns less than the non-custodial parent.
However, in some states, the courts will determine that both parents pay half to maintain their kids. Of course, this is after determining what each parent earns and how much time each parent spends with the children.
Furthermore, a court can and will also use implied income which is what a parent “could earn” for income based on their unique qualifications in the workforce or from prior education they may have.
How Does Entering a New Relationship Affect My Child Support?
If you’re considering getting married again, don’t fret. The court obligates the paying parent to continue making payments even after you remarry. Ideally, it is the responsibility of the biological parents to take care of their kids.
Your new spouse isn’t required by law to support your children from another marriage unless he or she does it willingly. However, a court may take into consideration living arrangements that contribute to your financial standing in the new relationship.
Is it Possible to Collect Back Payments or Child Support Arrears?
The child support recovery act obligates the support enforcement agency in your state to collect back child support payments.
The courts always aim at encouraging the defaulter to continue making payments to catch up on arrears. Several measures can be taken to collect defaulted payments.
- Freezing of bank accounts
- Placement of liens on properties
- Suspension of driving license
- Suspension of other professional licenses
- Garnishment of wages
Can you go to jail for not paying child support? The answer is yes! If an able parent ultimately declines to pay for child support, he or she may be taken to jail.
However, if a parent cannot make payment for genuine reasons, they cannot be jailed. Instead, they are advised to request child support modification as soon as the circumstances present themselves.
Some states will not consider cash payments or even documented payments made to the other parent if not done so under the court order. Ensure that you have sound legal advice if you’re making payments to your kids’ other parents outside of normal means regulated by the state in which you reside.
It’s common for paying parents to give money in cash form, thinking it’s part of their child support payments. Unless this is documented legally, the payments don’t make part of the monthly obligations. Such issues can bring about lots of frustration and contempt on the paying parent.
How does Child Support Modification Work?
Life is unpredictable, and either of the parents may want a modification of the child support order. The modification may either be in the form of an increase or a decrease, depending on the circumstances.
For example, the receiving parent may feel that things are tight and the money hardly sustains the children. The parent may also know that the paying parent has had an increase in wages, been awarded a bonus, or even inheritance.
On the other hand, the paying parent may become ill, which takes a toll on the finances. The payor may also suffer a job loss, making it almost impossible to meet the court-ordered financial obligation. “If I don’t have a job, how do I pay child support?”
You can modify payments either by child support stipulation agreement or through the courts. Even if you verbally agree, you still must create a new order that the judge will sign. This will make it official and alleviate any misunderstanding in the future. However, involving a child support lawyer is always recommended.
Otherwise, the old child support order remains valid. Besides, having it signed in the court prevents the paying parent from deciding not to honor the agreement.
The other option is when the parent requests a modification in child support payments directly through the courts. In this case, the judge will analyze the given circumstances to determine whether the modification is necessary and in the children’s best interest.
Is Child Support Taxable?
If you receive child support, it’s worth noting that it isn’t taxable. Therefore, you don’t have to include the child support money as part of your gross income. Child support payments have already been taxed from the paying parent.
It’s also worth noting that, according to the IRS, child support isn’t tax-deductible by the paying parent of the support. However, if you’re the paying parent, you’re taxed for the money used to make child support payments.
You can earn back some of that money at the end of the year by filing your federal income taxes and requesting the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit.
To benefit from this tax credit, you have to prove that you’re the head of household and indicate the child as a dependent on your annual tax return. This will mean that the children live with you and that you fill the IRS form 8875.
If you allow your ex-spouse to claim the children on their annual tax return, giving them a larger deduction makes child support tax-deductible. It may also reduce your child support obligation as the other parent makes the larger contribution.
If you aren’t sure how tax deduction works in child support, we recommend consulting with your child support lawyer. Alternatively, you can consult a certified public accountant.
Summarizing Support for Your Children...
Separation is inevitable for some couples. However, it’s a moral and legal requirement for parents to provide for their children just like they did before. This means taking care of their food, education, shelter, entertainment, and health.
Involving a child support attorney is important when drafting a child support agreement. This way, the best interest of the children is taken care of without emotions clouding judgment.
Since situations are different for different parents, we’ve written many other articles that will dive deeper into each scenario parents may encounter.
Need to know more? To get the latest information? To access support for what you are going through? Share the journey with people who have been there? Then join us here at the Divorce Mistakes Network.
Mistakes can be costly in terms of money and cherished relationships. If you’re facing issues about child custody or child support we can help you avoid them and live your best-divorced life with your kids.