Child support is a legal obligation in the form of regular payments made by a parent to benefit their child. This money is used for basic expenses and necessities such as food, housing, clothing, health care, and educational needs. Regardless of your fight to gain custody of your children, child support will be an issue in your case. You will either be paying it or receiving it.
Courts have little discretion in setting the amount of child support to be paid. This is because, as a condition of receiving federal aid, the states are required to follow certain standards in their child support statutes. Although the exact procedures and details vary from state to state, there is a certain basic pattern no matter where you live.
Child Support Calculation
Typically, child support is calculated in a very formulaic manner. In most states, the calculations are based upon three main factors: the parents’ income, the percent of time each party has the children, and the number of children involved. The courts have constructed formulas in an attempt to eliminate subjectivity.
The court will review several factors when calculating child support amounts that are to be paid monthly. These can include:
- The child’s age and gender
- Any academic, physical, or medical special needs
- The income and educational level of each parent
- The number of children involved in the custody hearing
- The history each parent has with the child or children
Dispelling “Deadbeat Dad” Label
The oft-used term “deadbeat dad” conjures up an image of a father who neglects to support his children emotionally or financially. This is one of the many gendered stereotypes that are consistently present in the family court system. Not every dad who does not fulfill his child support obligation can be construed as a “deadbeat.”
The law recognizes this distinction. The inability to pay is a valid defense to a contempt action. Simply showing that you are unemployed, though, is not sufficient to establish an inability to pay. If you are a father who is falling behind on child support, contact a family law attorney in your area to see if anything else can be done to provide relief.
Related Article: Deconstructing The Myth Of The ‘Deadbeat Dad’
What If You Can’t Pay Child Support
There are a host of causes for financial hardship, but many of them will not entitle you to reduce your child support obligations. Simply losing a portion of your income may not be enough to reduce your child support obligation.
If you do lose a notable portion of your income, you will need to find out what the requirements are for modifying a child support order in your state. Consequences for nonpayment can include:
- Property seizure
- Driver’s license suspension
- Tax refund seizure
- Wage garnishment
- Jail time
The court sets the amount of child support and the payment schedule, so if making your payments becomes difficult, you need to let the court know as soon as possible. It’s imperative that you be honest about your circumstances so you don’t let the problem get out of control.
Related Article: Unemployed and Broke: How Can I Lower My Child Support?
Child Support and College Expenses
If you are divorced, depending on the state where you live, the court could order you to pay for your adult child’s college education – something a court could never order a married couple to do.
Some states require parents to pay for some college-related expenses, such as books and housing, while other states view these as conditional expenses and do not require payments and/or reimbursement.
Related Article: Does Child Support Cover College Expenses?
Modifying Child Support
When the judge in your case determines your original child support obligation, the considerations may be dictated by statute, determined by the circumstances of your case or a combination of factors. These initial considerations may affect how future evaluations of your child support obligation are reviewed.
You are entitled to modify the amount of your child support if the variables used in the initial calculation have changed or if other factors are no longer valid. Additionally, if an emergency strikes or if you are experiencing short-term financial hardships, the court may temporarily decrease your payments. If the custodial parent starts experiencing financial problems, the non-custodial parent may experience a temporary increase in their child support payments. No matter what, however, any changes that need to be made must be heard in front of the court.
Related Article:5 Things To Know About Child Support Modifications