Divorce happens, and it often leaves an open wound for everyone involved. One household becomes two, and regardless if it was a single or double income household, the funds are no longer shared. Child support is the nasty side of parenting after a divorce.
We place a value on material items such as school supplies, prom dresses, and bills, but then there are other aspects of day to day life. Unexpected expenses and activities often make each parent feel stretched too thin. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you enter into child support negotiations.
Child Support is not a Financial Payout.
The Bible instructs us, “Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:7). This guidance should shut the door on believing that child support is not a payment for a parent’s efforts. One parent does not owe another parent anything other than love and to love their child.
As you negotiate child support, keep estimates and requests practical and applied to numbers that you can track. Child support requests should reflect bank statements, anticipated spending, and unexpected expenses that may come up month by month.
Carefully Track Everything
In the months leading up to the child support negotiation, you should take extra care to monitor your spending. How often do you pull through a drive-thru for an afterschool snack? How often is it easier to order a pizza while you work late from home? These one-off charges on your account can have a substantial impact.
We understand that no parent is perfect, and sometimes choosing the path of least resistance is worth the cost that comes with convenience.
Control Your Emotions
This is not a commandment for divorced parents or those experiencing a meaningful relationship in their lives dissolve. Controlling your emotions will help you through a difficult process, make it easier on your children and allow you to walk through this rough patch humbly.
When in doubt, or in need of reassurance, remember the passage, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippines 4:7).
It is hard to control our emotions, especially when they’re often intense emotions such as anger and grief. Have patience as negotiations take place, and don’t fall prey to bait from an ex-spouse. Reacting negatively, even when provoked by your former spouse can lead to a negative result for you when it comes to child support.
Count All Child-Related Expenses
Many parents go through a shock in their first year after a divorce. We all know that children are expensive, but they’re very generally expensive. It’s things like $3 in the morning for hot lunch and $10 for the class ice cream party.
When you’re building up your child-related expenses consider:
● Health insurance monthly payments and the costs of prescriptions.
● Dental and vision insurance.
● Medical costs for children with special needs.
● Education costs, including tuition, books, supplies, field trip expenses, and school lunch expenses.
● Extracurricular costs
● Cost of Living
● Childcare expenses
● Child’s time with each parent
● Tax consequences
The most often looked over expenses are the extracurricular costs and childcare expenses. Extracurricular costs can include sign-up fees for after-school activities and supporting the child’s hobbies. Childcare expense often drastically increase after a divorce as you don’t have a partner to rely on.
Discuss Child Support in Approved Settings
It doesn’t matter if someone “promised” a set dollar amount or even if you have proof of it through a text. There is a reason that you should only discuss child support in approved settings.
Many counselors will encourage couples to try to reach a private agreement. As desirable as that is, it’s not often the situation. Having an agreement written and formally acknowledged by both parties allows you both to have a greater level of security.
An approved setting doesn’t mean saving all conversations for a courtroom. There are several options available without dragging your former spouse through an unpleasant court event. You can work with lawyers to reach a mediated agreement, or to craft a private contract that is binding to both parties.
The information you have is not likely something that your former partner fully comprehends. Most marriages rely on one spouse for financial tracking and monitoring while the other focuses on other equally important issues. Why is this? Not everyone is savvy with finances, and many people prefer to let someone else take care of it.
The issue that comes with this is that the former spouse will likely experience a bit of shell shock when they see the expenses that come with raising a child, or two, or three. Share your information and findings with the other parent. Offer to discuss them, and supply proof such as transactions on bank statements or recurring bills.
Opening these discussions during the negotiation period can take the unpleasantness out of the entire experience. Often parents are quick to cut costs when it comes to extracurricular activities and hobbies, but when they see that these are the lighter expenses, it’s easier for them to understand that children are just expensive.
Additionally, you may share information about your state’s guides on child support. Many people experience disbelief when they realize that judges often have very little restriction on how to determine child support payments. If you’ve already started your research, offer to share what you’ve learned.
Schedule an Annual Review
Not everyone recommends it, but it sets a benchmark for respect. Agree to review the child support agreement and discuss possible adjustments annually. Who knows where you’ll be in a year and during that time your child could have quit the Scouts or joined Little League? You and the other parent may have decided it was better to move them to a private school that requires yearly tuition payment.
The annual review allows parents to make financial decisions about their child together. They can come together over all the other aspects here, such as what expenses the child support will account for and going over financial statements together.
Working together is no doubt, the best way to dissolve unnecessary or avoidable hostility. It’s the attempt of pouring a new foundation for co-parenting.
Author’s Bio: Liz S. Coyle is the Director of Client Services for JacksonWhite Attorneys at Law. She also serves as a paralegal for the Family Law Department. She is responsible for internal and external communications for the firm.