Every parent has a responsibility to support their children financially. Before the divorce, you and your ex pooled your resources to pay for what your children need. After the divorce, one parent may be granted sole physical custody. It is expected that the other parent will contribute to their household child rearing funds through court-mandated child support. In the best case scenarios, this arrangement is agreeable. We all want to support our children. And if your ex is a good parent, you know the money will be spent accordingly.
However, the amount of child support paid, and even who pays, can change as circumstances evolve naturally over time. Your children grow, your career progresses, the lifestyles of you and your ex may change. The initial child support agreement was based on your circumstances at the time of the divorce. When things change, you may also need to address the court in order to change the payment situation as well. To help, we’ve put together a quick helpful list of common reasons to adjust your child support payment situation.
The Child’s Needs Have Changed
The amount of child support paid is calculated by the court. Support payments are always based on your income and the needs of the child. Children with greater needs, like those with ongoing medical problems, tend to require more child support. Meanwhile children with a big family support network may need less for things like daycare costs. As children grow and develop, their needs change, as could the circumstances they’re growing up in.
The most common change is an increase in extracurricular activities. Sports equipment and musical instruments are common examples. But your child might also need childcare when they did not at first (or stop needing childcare). They could develop costly medical issues, or simply start blowing through clothes in growth spurt after growth spurt.
Some things, like paying for drama camp or a cellphone, might be worked out quietly between you. Others may require an official adjustment to your child support order.
Your Ability to Pay Has Changed
The other half of the child support equation also matters. The court will determine the amount based on both parties income. If you lose your job or get injured, you may request a lower child support payment.
Alternatively, getting a raise or promotion can also mean higher required child support payments. The courts will periodically review your case for these occurrences, but you don’t have to wait. Your best bet is to take charge of the situation yourself and offer more when your circumstances improve.
You Take On Primary Physical Custody
Custody determinations at the time of divorce are not final. Circumstances change and children make their own decisions as they grow older. There are dozens of reasons why your child might want or need to move in with you instead of living with their other parent. Your child might choose you in their teens, your ex could get sick or get a noxious new significant other, or your child might simply want to go to school in your city.
If you have taken on primary physical custody of your child, there’s no reason to keep paying child support and, in fact, it is necessary that you visit the court to have the order adjusted. It’s even possible that your ex will wind up paying support instead as a mirror to your previous dedication.
Your Ex Abuses the Funds
Worst case scenarios are unpleasant, but they do need to be considered. There is an unfortunate number of cases where the parent receiving child support spends the money on themselves or, worse, a new lover instead of taking care of the children. The best way to make sure your child support is used beneficially is to be involved with them and their daily lives. If your ex is living beyond their means while your children don’t get what they need, you will need to take action. That portion of your income is for your children and should be spent on clothes, school, and extracurricular activities.
Your Children Grow Up
Finally, the best case scenario is that you have diligently supported your child until they graduate happy and successful from high school and reach their 18th birthday. But the court doesn’t necessarily track child support birthdays. Talk to your family attorney about child support as the 18th birthday approaches so that it is stopped accordingly and on-time.
If you still want to support your child after they turn 18, consider giving the money directly to them or opening a savings account in their name rather than sending the funds through your ex.
Child support is a necessary part of modern divorces, but the system works best when it is managed precisely. Every time circumstances change significantly in your family or financial prospects, you will need to visit your family attorney and straighten out the correct payment amount. This ensures that you are doing your financial duty to your children in a way that is respectful to them, your ex, and yourself. For more information or a consultation on how to make the necessary changes to your payment expectations, contact Sutherland Law today.