“I lie awake wondering if she’s going to take me to court,” groaned a Dad. “My boss cut my hours. My insurance went up. I can’t pay what they ordered! What does she expect from me?”
Increasing costs, diminishing paychecks, and needy children combine to push parents who pay support into a tight corner. They feel like the proverbial dead-beat when they can’t make a payment. Really, they just want to do what’s right by their children. While meeting their own bills.
When child support gets to be too much–how do parents care for their children?
Remember the purpose
Child support remains the touchiest subject in divorce. The parent paying often resents giving their ex-spouse money. The parent receiving often cringes at taking the money.
Both parents must remember: Child support . . . .is for the children.
Everyone agrees–children are expensive. The parent paying the daily bills sees the bank account decrease with every grocery trip or notice of team dues.
The parent paying support easily loses sight of these daily drains. They start to resent all they send to the other parent. Especially, as their own bills escalate.
When parents focus on their own financial woes, they easily lose track of what matters. The children.
Children of divorce have already lost the emotional and physical security of an intact family. Child support combines both parents’ financial resources to maintain financial security. Parents pool money so their children can eat, sleep in a safe bed, wear clothes, and own pencils for homework.
Child support isn’t about one parent paying the other. It’s about supporting the children.
When support payments get difficult. . .parents should:
1. Review the budget
For some–the answer does lie in tightening belts. Costs are rising for everyone–custodial and non-custodial parent alike. The parent living with the children doesn’t have a choice about whether to buy the groceries or pay the doctor. They cut something to ensure children have what they need.
The parent paying support must have the same mind-set. Cut whatever they can to ensure children have what they need.
2. Review the guidelines
For others–room for cutting is gone. Rising health care costs, taxes, and cost of living have decimated budgets. If the child support order is more than the parent can pay, it’s time to ask the court for relief.
Even if the other parent has already agreed to accept less in child support.
Couples cannot decide on their own to lower child support. A court order is an order that can only be changed by the court.
Even if the parent receiving child support agrees to taking less, the parent paying is still liable for the full amount until the court changes the order. At any point, the parent receiving support can go to court and ask for a full payment of the back support. The judge has no leeway to lower this amount. The full back support will be ordered.
Parents protect themselves by presenting their situation to a judge to ask for relief. Judges understand that situations such as:
- loss of a job
- extreme change in obligations–i.e. skyrocketing health insurance premiums
- loss of overtime
all affect a parent’s ability to pay. If the court finds a substantial change in the circumstances from the original order which is likely to continue, the court will often provide relief.
3. Consider mediation
Before heading to court, try mediating a change in child support. Mediators help parents find the best way to combine resources to support the children. Mediators help parents use:
- budgeting strategies to discover the best balance of payments,
- in-kind support (such as providing more transportation or supplying school clothes) to take the place of direct payment.
- a joint account where both parents pay in and both parents can withdraw amounts needed for children–which provides accountability for both parents, or
- creative options for meeting children’s needs.
In short, mediators help both parents provide for their children while maintaining financial stability in their own home.
Mediators then file the new agreement with the court–protecting everyone. Proactively addressing child support protects the parent paying support from future liability. It ensures the parent receiving child support can depend on getting the money needed. Most of all–it protects the financial security of the children.
If you need assistance resolving child support issues–or any other issue related to divorce–call 317-344-9740 or email info@TheResolutionCenterIndy.com. We stand ready to serve you.