In honor of Child Support Awareness Month, the following is a series of helpful tips for anyone with an ongoing child support obligation. While each state maintains its own nuanced child support laws, these principles reflect the general child support statutes in most jurisdictions.
- Your monthly obligation can decrease. The child support amount assigned to you at the outset is not necessarily set in stone; child support modification may be possible if you can prove extreme financial difficulty. Most courts require evidence of severe disability, long-term unemployment or some other dramatic change in income. In other words, a bad month at work won’t cut it.
- Your monthly obligation can also increase. Believe it or not, your ex can petition the court to increase your child support obligation if your monthly income dramatically increases. Much like the threshold for a child support reduction, a child support increase is generally only possible by showing your monthly gross salary has significantly and permanently risen above the salary you were making when the order was put in place.
- Having another child may affect your payment amount. One factor considered by the court when determining child support is how many children you have in total, including the amount of child support you are paying for each. If you have another child, there is a possibility that it could decrease your payment responsibility.
- Increased parenting time may impact your obligation. In many jurisdictions, child support is calculated based on the percentage of time each co-parent spends with the child. Therefore, if your custody or visitation amount increases dramatically such that you are providing housing, food, clothing and other necessities on an increased basis, your obligation may decrease.
- Failing to pay your monthly obligation can be disastrous. States have come up with a slew of creative ways to ensure child support payors meet their obligation, or else! Besides criminal penalties, consequences for not paying child support include suspension of driving privileges, interception of lottery winnings, wage garnishment, deductions from tax refunds, cancellation of passports and even suspension of a fishing license. Members of the military who fail to ante up may also face dismissal from service.
- Certain income is not counted when determining ability to pay. Your monthly child support obligation is based on your gross income, which generally includes wages, tips or rental income. However, certain government benefits, including Supplemental Security Insurance, do not count in the calculation of your gross income.
- Child support isn’t forever. It may seem like you will be writing that check to your ex every month for the rest of your life, but in reality, child support is generally cut off once the child reaches age 18. That is, unless you and your ex decided to extend the deadline in a divorce settlement, which leads to our last point …
- Child support payments can last through college. It is not uncommon for divorcing parents of young children to vehemently insist on child support payments lasting through the college years. However, 15 years later, the notion can quickly lose its attraction, especially if the child is underperforming while away at school. Many couples opt to cut off child support at age 18 but agree to equitably split the costs of a college education once the child leaves home.