Category: Child Support
Questions/Answers
When a parent dies, does the estate owe child support to the surviving parent?
In Pennsylvania the law has been clear: the estate of a deceased parent has no obligation to pay child support but for an agreement. A post-mortem child support obligation was viewed as an impermissible interference with the deceased parent’s testamentary wishes. In March 2009, however, the Superior Court considered a case in which a parent agreed to pay child support as part of a marital settlement agreement. Perhaps surprisingly, the Superior Court held that the child support provisions of the marital settlement agreement were binding upon the estate, since the agreement did not explicitly terminate the obligation upon the parent’s death.
Is my ex-spouse obligated to pay child support if there is no court order?
Although the non-custodial parent should contribute to the support of his or her child, he is not legally obligated to do so until a court mandates him or her to do so. Child support can be ordered even if the parties still live together in most states.
How is child support calculated in Texas?
In Texas we use a chart/formula created by the Texas State Attorney General’s Office (AG). They call it a "tax" chart. To properly calculate child support you need to come to a yearly gross figure. This can be a W2, a year end paystub, or a calculation based upon your year to date on your paystub. That figure will be divided by 12, giving you a gross monthly income. That figure will be plugged into the tax table found at http://www.oag.state.tx.us/cs/attorneys/attorneys_other_tax.shtml. Instructions are provided in the link to each years tax chart. The resulting "net income" is then multiplied by the percentage for the number of children (20%=1, 25%=2, and so on).
How do I terminate my child support obligation and stop wage garnishment in Rhode Island?
In Rhode Island (RI) child support does not automatically terminate when a child reaches 18 years old! Termination of a child support order is not automatic in Rhode Island! A child support order / obligation will only terminate if a motion to terminate child support is granted by a Judge of The Rhode Island Family Court. Pursuant to RI law, child support is eligible to be terminated upon a child attaining the age of 18 and graduating high school but not longer then the child turning 19 years old. If the child is 18 years old and still in high school than child support may continue until the child graduates high school but not longer then the child attaining the age of 19.
Can I put in my agreement the idea of a fixed child support increase, instead of allowing modification?
You can put in a clause allowing for periodic fixed increases, but again, since courts retain jurisdiction to modify child support orders, you cannot avoid modification. Most jurisdictions allow “escalator clauses," but not all. Your lawyer can assist you on this issue. This is often discouraged, because in doing so, you are trying to predict the economic future of the paying parent.
Can I make my spouse agree to pay all medical expenses?
“Make" your spouse do something is probably not a good choice of words. You can contract with your spouse that he or she is responsible for all or certain medical expenses. Such a clause is often required by law and easily written. The judge will require that the children have some kind of medical coverage.
Can I have my separation agreement provide for the support of our children through college?
Child support usually terminates upon the age of majority (either 18 or 21, depending upon the state). You can, however, contract to continue the child support through college (which typically exceeds the age 18 and even 21). If this is your intent, be sure to be explicit in your language within this particular clause. This would be achieved by including a clause that specifically addresses additional support for secondary education. Too often this important issue is left out of the agreement or not consider when the children are very young.
Can we spell out our child support agreement within our separation agreement?
Parents are free to enter into contracts establishing their child support obligations and arrangements. The judge will review your child support agreement (or clause within your separation agreement), to make sure that it is in compliance with state law, specifically, your state’s child support guidelines. Your lawyer can assist you in creating a child support agreement that will be acceptable.
Helpful Tips and Facts
North Carolina Child Support Modification
Courts can modify support under the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines upon the showing of a substantial and material change of circumstances in either the needs of the children or the ability of either party to provide support. Such changes must be unintentional or occur as a result of good-faith action; quitting one’s job will not suffice. Support can also be reviewed every three years and modified upon a showing that modification would result in a 15% change or greater in the ordered support amount.
Protecting Alimony and Child Support Payments
The spouse given custody of the children (custodial parent) may want to consider whether the life of the noncustodial parent is insured. If you’re the custodial parent, you don’t want to end up in a position where child support payments suddenly end because your ex-spouse dies. The same thing applies to alimony payments. Life insurance can protect you and your children in case of untimely death. Some agreements require the noncustodial parent to pay for a policy on his or her life and to name the custodial parent as beneficiary. Check with your attorney to see if your agreement should also state that you periodically receive proof that the policy is still in force.
Parental Alienation and Parenting Coordinator Work
Parenting Coordinator (PC) work can greatly reduce parental alienation and it’s very harmful effects on children and teens. Some states have credentialing and guidelines for parenting coordinators, however, many do not. While a PC is not a therapist, the PC serves the very important role of working therapeutically to help separated and divorced parents co-parent their children and teens. In working with family law attorneys, I often recommend putting in place PC work within the divorce agreement as a preventative and supportive measure should conflicts arise.
Child Support Protection through Life Insurance
Whatever alimony or child support award you receive, make sure to secure it through life insurance on your ex-spouse. Especially if those monthly awards are a primary source of income for your household, unexpected loss of the income may be financially devastating. This coverage must be put in place before the divorce is final, otherwise the insurance company will likely not allow you to apply as the owner. This is an important area to address in the divorce negotiations, as who will pay for it, how long the coverage must be kept, and how much coverage is needed may all have to be negotiated. If your spouse is uninsurable and there is no existing life insurance plan to provide this coverage, alternate arrangements may need to be made.
Modification Of Child Support
It should be noted that once child support has been awarded, the amount can always be modified if certain conditions change. The conditions and rules will vary by state but all states permit modification.
Modify Child Support in Rhode Island
What may constitute a substantial change in Circumstances pursuant to Rhode Island family / divorce / child support law in order to warrant a modification of child support? 1. unemployment 2. disability 3. new dependant child 4. decrease in income of either party 5. increase in income of either party 6. increase in cost of daycare 7. increase in cost of medical insurance 8. a change in the financial circumstances of the either parent such as inheritance, acquiring assets 9. either party obtaining social security benefits (SSI or SSDI) or afdc benefits 10. new RI Child Support Guidelines promulgated. 11. loss of overtime income 12 a substantial bonus of either party 13 any other change in circumstances that is recognized by the Court.
Rhode Island child Support- motions to modify
Child support in Rhode Island (RI) is not automatically modified when there is a change in circumstances. The parent must file a motion to modify child support. When a motion for modification of child support is filed a court date will be set by the clerk of the Rhode Island Family Court. In order to modify child support there must be a substantial change in circumstances. Under RI Law, a new child support amount does not run retroactive to when the circumstances actually changed! The new child support order should run retroactive to the date of the filing of the motion.
Support Modificaton
As circumstances change, it may become necessary to modify child or spousal support. Most states have some sort of calculation they use to determine support. Any paralegal can run the numbers for you so there is nothing to fight about. In your divorce agreement, add a clause that states that the two of you want to reduce legal fees by having informal modifications when there is a change in circumstances. That you agree to exchange year to date income information and to use a paralegal to determine support and draft a stipulation in order to avoid court. Also include an attorney fee provision that says if one party does not abide by this agreement and the non breaching party seeks relief from the court, they WILL be entitled to attorney fees. This way everyone has an incentive to follow the agreement.
Don’t Foregt About Uninsured Medical Expenses
A divorce settlement should identify the parent who pays the cost of uninsured medical expenses. Otherwise, the custodial parent may end up picking up the tab. An uninsured short visit to an emergency room today can easily cost hundreds of dollars.
Paying Child Support Promptly
Delinquent support is one of the most common causes of continuing friction between formerly married couples.
Cost of Living Adjustments
Sometimes the parents include a cost of living escalator in parenting agreements. This affords the custodial parent with some protection from the increases in living costs.
Paying the Piper
Divorce upsets personal finances, but divorced people cannot discharge certain obligations through bankruptcy, including child support and alimony.
Incarceration for Failure to Pay Support
Generally, failure to pay support does not end in a jail sentence because the person who is incarcerated can pay nothing. Deadbeats try to beat the system because they know the courts are reluctant to jail them. In response to this, child support enforcement agencies have instituted new enforcement measures which include the suspension of a driver’s license and/or putting a lien on real estate.
How Much Child Support Will I Get?
If you are questioning this before you decide to get a divorce, hopefully your concerns are about the welfare of your child or children and not your own. Child Support is for the children and the expenses to support them, so be sure to keep child support separate from any spousal support/alimony and/or property settlements. Do yourself the favor and make several copies of the worksheet and run several scenarios using different levels of income. This way you will not be surprised if the support amount is less than what was expected or assumed.
Calculating Child Support Online
There are several resources online that tout child support calculators according to state guidelines. A user should beware that many of these online support calculators are very basic and do not address some of the more detailed parts of the support calculation process. This being said, most of the online child support calculation results should be used as an estimate prior to getting a full calculation done by a professional or divorce service.
Getting Support Collection Results
The Child Support Enforcement Unit can often get swamped with cases, so you may feel that you are not getting the attention you need or deserve. If your enforcement agency is failing to be successful at collecting support for you, you may want to consider trying a private child support collection agency. Keep in mind, that this should be a last resort, because like most collection agencies, the percentage they take of what is collected can be rather substantial. The normal amount is 40%.
Remember the Children
Child support cannot be waived. A child has a legal right to support, and no parent can give this away. Parents may agree that no child support will be paid from one to the other, but the court will have final say as to whether this would be appropriate. In order for the court to award zero child support, typically the custodial arrangement must be joint or shared and the income levels of the parents must be close to equal.
The Chart is Only a Map
Courts will throw away the chart when they deem deviation from it in the best interest of the child.
All is Flux
Child support is always modifiable based on change in circumstance. Job loss, health and disability issues, an unexpected windfall -- each can change the amount of child support, but never the detriment of the child.
Breaching the Duty of Paying Child Support
If you are the obligor (paying parent) of a support order and are having difficulties paying the monthly support payments, you should be proactive and address the situation by explaining this to both the obligee (receiving parent) and the support enforcement office that oversees the payments. Neglecting the issue and simple not paying will haunt you down the road.
A Bench Warrant for Child Support
The child support enforcement office, along with the court, will issue a bench warrant for a delinquent payor of child support. This delinquency is typically reoccurring and the warrant becomes a last effort to persuade a payor to become current on the payments that are past due. The problem with this tactic, is that a payor who is actually jailed due to a bench warrant is going to have a tough time generating income to pay support from inside his or her cell. The ends does not justify the means.
The Tricks of Wage Deduction
If a payor has a very close relationship with the employer, he or she may be able to convince the employer to make adjustments to his or her salary, bonuses, and/or overall methods of payment in order to decrease future child support payments. This can be an uphill battle for a payee, so if you see this starting to happen, be sure to address it quickly, because before you know it, you will be in court with the payor because he or she is attempted to modify the existing support order to reflect his or her reduced income.
Establishing a Wage Deduction Order
Not all states require this, so in those in which it is optional, it is often overlooked. In the states that require wage deuction, there is a standardized document that must be completed and signed by the judge (typically along with the final decree or judgment). This court order is then mailed to the employer and the employer must follow the requests of the court or face th eleagl repercussions.
Enrolling in the Automated Support System
Even though you and your spouse may be in complete agreement and your divorce is amicable, you may want to still consider having any support order enrolled in your state’s automated system (some states make it mandatory). You never know how things will be in the future and participation eliminates the transfer of money from one parent to the other, but rather through a third independent party. Having the automated system manage the child support payments can eliminate confusion and potential disagreements over pay dates, missed payments, and amounts.
Private Support Collectors
When all else has failed, a last effort would be to hire a private child support collection agency to help recover your lost funds. These types of companies use a very hard-nosed approach and receive at least 40% of what is collected.
Preventing Child Support Arreages
This is often easier said than done, but most states have a system set up for automatic payment or wage garnishment to help prevent or reduce the amount of delinquency. This way payments are made in full and on time according to a set schedule, rather than relying on the payee to actually put a check in the mail. Many states make this mandatory, but others have it available as an option that must be selected through the court.
Your Child Support Officer
Each county court may have a unique title assigned to the administrative officer who deals with child support. You may have to request to talk to someone in the child support enforcement department to find out the correct title for the officer who oversees support modifications. Addressing him or her properly in written correspondence is very important.
Deviating from the Child Support Worksheet
In an uncontested divorce, many spouses can agree on a monthly child support amount that is different from what the state support worksheet produces. In a situation like this, as long as the agreed to child support amount is reasonable and can be substantiated as appropriate by the parents, the court will often order it. Keep in mind that the court will always have the final say as to what the child support order will be, because the court is essentially representing the children.