Taking Care of Child Support
Child support is a little bit like dynamite. It is safe if handled properly, but can blow up in your face if handled carelessly. The purpose of this article is to help you prevent yourself from getting blown up!
I have heard comments like these from people who got behind in their child support:
“I pay for everything the kids need, what more do they want?”
“I lost my job and can no longer pay the amount I was ordered to pay.”
“I have been paying the money directly but the Friend of the Court still says I owe.”
‘The money does not go for the children, it is used to buy a new car, new house, clothes, etc.”
The amount of child support you are ordered to pay is based on the child support Guidelines. These Guidelines are a based on the incomes of the parties and the amount of overnight visits per year the child spends with either party. It is mandatory the court follow the guidelines, so if you disagree with the guideline amount and file an appeal, it is likely in most cases that you will not win. So what is the best way to deal with your child support obligation? The best way is to pay through an income withholding order, whereby the money is automatically taken out of your check before you see it, and there is a record of payment which cannot be denied.
But what happens if you lose your job and are no longer able to pay your child support? In that case, you must file a motion to reduce your support. The court will recalculate the support guidelines and order you to pay a lesser amount. However, if you lose your job in September, and then wait a year before you file a motion to reduce your support obligation, then things can become more complicated and problematic. In that case, the court will only reduce your support obligation retroactive to the date you filed for a reduction. That means you would still owe the higher amount for the year when you could not pay your support obligation because you lost your job but did not bother to file a motion to reduce. Therefore, it would be best to immediately file for a support reduction if your income goes down. You will save yourself a lot of time and money.
What if you pay the other person directly and do not go through the friend of the court? In that case, you can file a motion to opt out of the friend of the court. If the court grants your motion, you would be permitted to bypass the Friend of the Court and pay directly. However, if you pay the other party directly without filing an opt-out motion first, you risk the court interpreting your payments as gifts. In other words, the court could say, ‘thank you very much for the payments, but we do not consider those voluntarily payments as support payments and you still owe back support.’
Finally, what about the arguments that you support your children in other ways by buying them what they need, or that the support that you pay is not being used for the children? These arguments almost never hold up. Courts don’t have the time or desire to figure out what you are buying for the kids or what the payee is doing with the child support money; especially when you are saying one thing and the other side is saying the exact opposite.
So pay your support in a timely manner, pay through the Friend of the Court with an income withholding order, and immediately file a motion to reduce if your income changes downward.