What a Child Support Lawyer Can and Can’t Do for You
Child support is a simple term that has a simple meaning; money paid to support the care of a child. When there are children involved in a divorce, child support is usually ordered by the court to be paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent. This provides the parent who is with the child most of the time with the financial means they need to give the child everything they need. If one parent has a significantly larger income than the other, the one with the larger income will be expected to contribute more to raising the child in spite of who has custody. Although a basic formula or guideline is used to determine child support, a number of other factors will also be considered including:
- The financial obligations of each parent
- Special needs of the child
- The previous lifestyle of the child
- Child care expenses
- Which parent will be paying the child’s healthcare
- Which parent the child will be living with more of the time
The laws regarding child support vary in each state. Some states consider all of the factors listed above in determining the amount of child support to be paid at the time it is ordered. Others will only look at some factors if the child support lawyer enters them into the negotiation for consideration by the court. Any requests will need to be supported by documents that show there is an actual basis for the need for any additional child support. The lawyer can’t simply request a higher payment without giving a reason. Family law attorney Peter J. Russo explains that while guidelines are given for determining child support, they are flexible to accommodate the needs of both parents and attend to the well-being of the child.
In the past, the mother was almost always given custody of the children while the father paid support. Today, however, both parents are more likely to be working and some circumstances result in father’s having either shared custody or complete custody of the kids. The courts are expected to focus on reaching an outcome that is best for the children, not for either parent.
Just as custody may rest with either parent, child support may be paid by either as well. Regardless of which parent is receiving child support payments, the money should be used to benefit the child. This includes the child’s needs for clothing, food, medical care, participation in extracurricular activities, education, and medical care.
One misconception that is often held by divorced parents is that the child support payments cannot be used to pay for the child’s shelter. Although the home is also being used by the other parent and any other family members, a portion of the energy, upkeep, and other utilities will go to the child.
After the Divorce and the Child Support Order
If you are making child support payments and you feel they are not being used in the care of the child, you should contact your child support lawyer with your concerns. They may be able to have the order changed or even have the other parent held in contempt of court. Keep in mind that there is little the child support lawyer can do if there is not evidence to support your claims.
During the divorce, your divorce lawyer is also your child support lawyer. They will work with you and the documentation provided to determine how much child support should be. But many of the circumstances that are considered at that time have the potential to change in the near or distant future. The child support payee may have more expenses for the care of the child or the payer may be having financial difficulties that make it difficult or impossible to pay the amount of the original child support order.
The child support lawyer can petition the court to have the original order modified if there is evidence that supports the changes in either case. Without evidence, the lawyer will not be able to prove that the modification is needed. However, situations such as losing a job, having the child develop a medical condition, incurring high medical bills for your own medical bills, or an increase in the income of the other parent are just some of the reasons for needs in modification that should be fairly easy to prove.
The Game of Give and Take
The matters of child custody, visitation, and child support are all intricately intertwined and sometimes complex. Before the child support is ordered, the matter of who will retain custody of the children and the visitation of the other parent must be determined. Once they are, the child support will be based on the numerous factors listed before and those of the custody arrangement the court has determined.
One of the problems with any court case is that neither party may be happy with the decision the judge gives even though it is legally binding. In a bitter divorce, the non-custodial parent may feel that they are getting the “raw end of the deal” by having to make child support payments. Instead of realizing that this is money that is needed for the care of their children, they feel as though the money is being paid to their ex-spouse for their personal use. They may start to get a little lax about sending the payments, skip some payments, or simply not send them at all.
On the other end of the process, the custodial spouse begins to have difficulty making ends meet. They think their only option is to use the one thing they have control of: the children. They stop being available when it is time for the children to be picked up for visitation or make sure that they are somewhere that the other parent can’t find them.
One of the most important things that divorced parents need to understand is that child support is not something you pay in exchange for visitation. It is to pay for the child’s needs just the same as you would if you were still living in the same home.
To avoid conflicts and made life easier for the children, contact your child support lawyer whenever there are changes or problems with receiving or making child support payments. Find out what your options are and you may find that reaching an agreeable resolution is simpler than you think.