In the wake of divorce, child support is one of the biggest expenses many men face. These ongoing payments made by one parent provide for the continued financial benefit of children following the end of a marriage or other relationship. Some argue, however, that child support orders can be excessive and more about the parents than the actual kids. One group plans what it calls a “major attack on excessive child support” in hopes of changing this.
The National Parents Organization, a group advocating for children’s right to have both parents involved in their lives following divorce or separation, has a massive research project in the works. They aim to craft a comprehensive study of child support policies from across the country, from the point of view of the entire family, not just the custodial parent.
The NPO claims there is no accountability on the part of the custodial parent to actually spend the money on the child, that child support awards that are too steep injure the child by forcing one parent into poverty, and that such verdicts harm subsequent children or stepchildren of the payer by placing that family unit in a precarious financial position in order to support another.
In this study, they plan to examine the process of writing Child Support Guidelines, compare child support orders in all 50 states, and analyze the standard of living and tax burdens of child support payers and recipients. They even intend to ask if there is such a thing as too much child support — their stance is that by compelling one parent to pay more, he or she will have to work more, spend less time with the children, and live in cheaper, less child-friendly housing. All of which they claim is detrimental to a child rather than beneficial.
Child Support In Washington
While it remains to be seen what if any reform comes from this study, child support continues to be a big issue in divorce and child custody cases. Every situation is different, but there is a formula to figuring out child support.
Paid by one parent to the other, child support is designed to help maintain the children in question. Part of a parent’s legal duty to support their kids, these payments cover the basic necessities. This includes providing clothing and food, a safe place to live, medical care, and child care.
A parent’s ability to pay also factors into the child support award. The court considers each party’s income and the needs of the children. This amount is called the basic support obligation, usually a monthly payment from the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent. (Click this link to take a look at the Washington State Child Support Schedule.)
Frequently Asked Child Support Questions
Child support can be a complex issue. Figuring out how much you owe is a complicated process with many moving parts. With that in mind, here are some frequently asked questions when it comes to this topic.
What Constitutes Income? The number the courts look at to calculate child support is your net income. This is what you earn after taxes and things of that nature have been removed, your take home pay. You can deduct federal income tax, L&I insurance, Social Security, mandatory pension contributions and mandatory union dues, and sometimes voluntary pension offerings.
Will My New Spouse/Partner’s Income Impact Payments? While only your income and that of the custodial parent are included in the calculation, the court may take your overall financial situation into account. This is exceedingly rare, but in some circumstances, the court may consider the income of a new spouse or live-in partner.
What If I Can’t Afford The Payments? In certain situations, the court may set child support below the basic support obligation. If you fall below the federal poverty line, if the amount is more than 45% of your after-tax income, if you support other children, if you split custody or have significant visitation, and other factors may influence the amount. There are stiff penalties, however, if you don’t pay.
What If Payments Don’t Cover All Expenses? The basic support obligation may not cover all of the child’s expenses. In some instances, the court may order the parents to share some costs. When it comes to uninsured medical expenses, insurance premiums, day care, education, and long-distance transportation, parents often split payments.
When Does Child Support End? In most cases, child support ends when the child turns 18-years-old or graduates high school, whichever comes later. This isn’t always the case, however. The court may order support for college or vocational school, known as post-secondary support. In these cases, the court may consider the age, need, and parental expectations of the child; the child’s desires, abilities, and aptitudes; the parents’ level of education and standard of living; and more. Also, if a child is disabled and dependent on parental care, child support may continue.
These are just a few of many questions and issues surrounding child support. As you see, it can be a complex endeavor and it depends on a multitude of factors. In cases like these, you may be best served by hiring an attorney with experience in this field to guide you through. Whatever money you spend now may save you much more down the road.