Child Support: Let the arguments begin

Not many topics will set off as many fights between divorcing parents than child support. Neither side is ever happy with the judge’s decision. The payor believes they are being robbed because “my ex is not really spending it on the children.” The payee believes the judge is not recognizing “how expensive it is to raise a child in today’s world.” Often these conflicts are multiplied by the misinformation and misapprehensions spouses have about how child support is determined, such as the following:

The judge does not sit in his chambers using an iPhone calculator to decide on child support payment: The court uses a computer calculation (The California Child Support Guideline Calculator) to decide how much support needs to be paid. End of story. The judge does not give or take away dollars from you because he likes/dislikes you. ALL the court will do is input into the calculation how much each parent makes, which parent is paying for the children’s health insurance, and how much time each parent spends with the child. NOTHING else matters in calculating child support in court. Don’t bother arguing.

You cannot prevent the other parent from seeing the child even if they stop paying support: Yes, it is very frustrating (and probably even a financial hardship) if the other parent stops paying the required support payment. Nevertheless, the law states that children need two things: time with both parents and financial support. If one of the two needs are taken away, the court will not agree that depriving the child of the other need is a good plan. Do not prevent your child from seeing your ex “to get back” at the other parent. It will work not work in your favor.

Special provisions should be written into the child support for extracurricular expenses: Unless special provisions are written into a child support order covering issues such as extracurricular expenses, the court-mandated support amount is ALL the support a spouse is going to get for the child under the law. The paying parent can voluntarily pay for clothes, activities, etc., but is not required to. The law presumes that the court-mandated support amount covers all the expenses of raising a child. So DO NOT sign the child up for that expensive horse-riding camp thinking the other parent will pay half unless they agree (in writing) to do so. It could be an expensive assumption.

Be prepared to find a job . . . even if you have not worked in years: Even if you have not worked since the turn of the millennium, you will (most likely) be expected to get a job. (In some cases, you may have at least minimum wage income imputed to you by the court in calculating child support and spousal support even if you don’t work.) Remember, the adults are not together anymore, meaning that both are looking at a new way of living—and that includes working. (This is true even if you have stayed home with the kids for years.)

Child support does NOT belong to the parent getting the check — it belongs to the kids. While the court won’t make the parent receiving support provide receipts about how it was spent, that money is belongs to the children in the eyes of the law. Ignore your ex when he offers to stop fighting for custody time in exchange for you agreeing not to chase him for child support. You cannot turn down something that is not yours (your children’s financial support). Plus, the deal offered by your ex is totally unenforceable. A parent can go back to court anytime to get support for the kids.

Keep these five instructions in mind to prevent having unreasonable expectations when the judge assigns child support. Next, we will discuss spousal support. Another topic that brings out the boxing gloves between exes.