To continue our acknowledgement of Child Support Awareness month, the following are questions frequently asked by recipients of child support payments. Most often, the child support recipients also serve as primary custodian, so receiving that check each month is a vital component to the overall household income.
The following should help clear up any myths or misunderstandings about child support payments, as well as outline what to do if your co-parent begins to miss the monthly obligation.
How is child support decided?
If you are just starting out in your petition for child support, you probably are feeling a little anxious about making ends meet for you and your child. Fortunately, child support orders are executed fairly objectively, and most states rely on a complex algorithm to determine an appropriate amount. Your state will consider both your monthly income and the income of your ex to determine an appropriate amount. There are also other factors for the court to consider, including other child support obligations or the number of children each parent supports. A lawyer can help you navigate the terrain, or even help you and your soon-to-be ex create your own parenting plan.
Must I pay taxes on my child support income?
No. Child support income is not considered part of your annual gross income, and you do not need to pay federal income tax on these payments. Also, the IRS only allows a parent to claim a child tax exemption if he or she pays for 50 percent or more of the child’s annual support.
What if I need an increase in child support?
If you would like to ask the court for an increase in your monthly support amount, you will need to present evidence that your child’s needs have changed, requiring additional financial support. This could include a serious medical event or a special needs education. If you are petitioning shortly after your original order was granted, many states require proof that the issue giving rise to the need for change is a new issue that was not occurring at the time the first order was granted.
My spouse and I are negotiating a divorce. Can we agree on a child support amount on our own?
Yes, as long as the amount you agree upon is equal to or greater than the amount the child would have received using your state’s child support calculator. In other words, divorcing parents are not allowed to agree on a child support amount that will be a detriment to the child.
I have not received a child support payment in over six months. What can I do?
If your co-parent is behind on child support payments, you can contact the state agency responsible for monitoring and enforcing child support orders. In most instances, that agency will petition the family court on your behalf for the amount owed. If a paying party gets too far behind on support, the state can impose a wage garnishment, intercept a tax refund or suspend the payor’s driving privileges.
My ex just got laid off. Am I going to lose my child support income?
Legally speaking, no. However, your ex may petition for a child support modification, which will be granted if it is unlikely that your ex will be able to resume or maintain gainful employment. Courts generally only award a modification upon a showing that the responsible party is enduring significant financial hardship, such as an illness, injury or chronic unemployment.
My child is about to turn 18 but has decided to go to college. Can I make my ex pay half?
In all likelihood, probably not. Unless you and your ex agreed to split the costs of a college education in a divorce settlement agreement, most states will not require a payor to continue payments past the age of 18. However, a sizable minority of U.S. states maintain laws possibly requiring a party to pay child support through the college years. These laws have been meet with ongoing controversy and debate.