A major concern for parents in a divorce is how it will affect the children. While there are ways to make it easier on the children, by nature a divorce is hard on everyone. If you are getting divorced and have children then child support will be an issue that you will need to solve. Custody battles can be exactly that, a battle. But even after that battle is over, you still need to determine the amount of child support that is required. This can be a difficult process, but your children are worth fighting for. Being prepared for the situation can help alleviate any additional stress that a custody battle will bring to your divorce.
When it comes to making a decision about child support and custody you have two choices: make an agreement with your spouse or let the courts decide. Whether you are divorced or married, you have a legal obligation to support your children financially.
Who Pays Child Support
The parent that makes child support payments depends mostly on two factors:
- How much each parent earns
- Where the kids spend their time
Income plays a role in how much child support you are legally required to pay because it determines your ability to pay and how much you would be paying if you were still married. Even if custody is split 50-50, the parent that has the higher income will be responsible to pay more child support.
Generally, the rule is that if a child spends more than half of their time with one parent, then the other parent is responsible for paying child support. In theory, the parent that the child spends most of the time with is already spending money on food, clothes, a home, etc. This makes the other spouse responsible for contributing as well because they are not present for the daily expenses.
Calculating Child Support
Child support is designed to provide children with their basic needs, e.g. food, clothing, care for them, and medical insurance. These are basic necessities that you are legally required to provide for your children. Each state sets its own standards and formulas for calculating child support, but those basic needs must always be met. These formulas are complicated, but an online child support calculator is available on most state court websites.
With a set formula, you’d assume that it would be simple to determine the amount of child support owed and that there would be no room for argument; this is not the case. These formulas are technically guidelines, and there is room for negotiation. The main aspects that spouses fight over with child support are:
- Special needs
- Too much money
- Other expenses
Income. Since a big part of determining child support is income, it is important to ensure that both sides are accurately reporting their incomes. Some people will try to manipulate their reported income so it looks like they make much less than they really do so their child support payments are smaller. Having an attorney on your side will be important at this point as they will know how to ensure that the full income is reported to the court for determining the amount of child support.
Special Needs. If any of the children have special needs, for example: asthma, learning disability, mental handicap, etc., then their needs will be considered in additional money for child support.
Too much money. If the paying parent’s income is very large, then the standard percentage will likely be more than is necessary to meet the child’s needs, so that parent can argue to pay less.
Other Expenses. A parent that has other unusual expenses may not be able to afford the full amount determined by the court, so they can argue to have it accommodate their actual ability to pay.
More often than not, you are going to end up paying close to guideline determined amount. Unless you know you have unique circumstances, then it is not worth the time and money to argue child support. Calculate what the guideline amount of child support would be, and try to negotiate with your spouse outside of court for an amount close to the guideline determined amount. If you cannot come to an agreement outside of court, then a judge will determine the amount for you—but be aware that their ruling is definitive and enforceable. It is much simpler to come to an agreement outside of court because then you are still able to maintain direct control over the outcome.
Some important questions to consider before entering child support negotiations are:
- Which parent is paying for day care? Cost?
- Which parent is providing health insurance? Cost?
- How many children is each parent supporting?
- Ages of the children? (child support increases as children get older, so the age of the children also determine the amount to be paid)
- Are the parents remarried or living with a new partner? Are there additional children from a different marriage?
- Do either of the parents receive any additional income—second job, settlement payout, disability, bonuses, commission, etc.)
Those are just a few important questions that you need to be able to answer to help in negotiating child support. If you make an agreement outside of court, you are free (within certain limits) to set your amount and child support agreement however you please. If you agree to not receive as much child support as the guideline determined amount, you are free to do so. A judge will review your agreement to determine if it is unduly fair to one side, but essentially you can agree to whatever you feel is best for your unique situation.
Creating this agreement can be complicated; this is where an experienced divorce attorney will be able to determine a fair amount based on the documentation provided and help you come up with a game plan for receiving the child support that is needed. At JacksonWhite, our attorneys have years of experience assisting clients with child support. They understand that this is a major financial decision that will impact not only your lives, but your children’s lives. To schedule a case consultation with one of our talented family law attorneys, please call us at (480) 418-7896.
Schedule your consultation with Jackson White’s family law team today, and let us help protect your child’s future.