When a couple with children divorces, they know that the situation will involve child support. However, many divorcing parents are unaware of how the amount of child support is determined, and there is plenty of confusion on the topic. Some of the major areas of confusion are as follows:
Myths Regarding Child Support
- Some people believe that child support is rare. The fact is, divorced couples in the US pay more than $220 billion each year in child support. And the government collects an additional $31 billion annually from parents who aren’t paying their court-ordered support payments.
- Another myth is that joint custody negates the need for child support. The majority of joint custody cases will involve some form of support payment to ensure that parents share equally in the support of their children – and that does not necessarily mean that each parent pays the same amount. The court takes into consideration which parent has primary physical custody, the parents’ income, and the age of the children. Usually, the older the child, the higher the expected expenses for education, camp, outings, etc. Teenagers may warrant 25 percent more custody support than younger children.
- While many people believe that child support payments are tax-deductible, that is not the case. The parent receiving payments does not have to declare them as income, and the parent making payments cannot deduct them from his or her taxes.
- The common belief is that support payments cease when the child turns 18. However, the payment must continue beyond that age if the child is still in high school. And a child with disabilities may receive support payments well beyond the age of 18. In addition, back child support payments can be collected after the child is 18 years of age.
- There is a myth that child support payments can only be used for the child. But there are many child-related matters, such as utility bills, insurance, and house payments, that can be paid with child support funds.
- Some parents who are tired of making support payments have quit their job in favor of unemployment or lower-paying underemployment to lower child support payments or avoid paying them altogether. These parents will quickly learn that the courts do not permit this and, instead, will continue to calculate the payment amount based on his or her past employment.
- Many couples believe that the child support amount is a fait accompli after the divorce agreement has been finalized. However, legitimate expenses, from medical to educational, may be incurred that the couple could not have foreseen when signing the agreement. And the parents’ income and expenses may also change. Requests to the court to modify the agreement are quite common. In the same vein, a legitimate job loss or change in income will not be held against the parent, and the court may adjust the payments accordingly.
- Parents desperate to avoid custody payments have attempted to file for bankruptcy. It is a myth that bankruptcy will erase the need to provide for one’s child. Bankruptcy does not alleviate the need to provide for one’s children.
- It is commonly believed that non-payment of child support will result in loss of parental rights or custody. That is not the case. The court will not deny a child parental time if a parent owes support funds, and the parent who does withhold visitations based on nonpayment is the one who could be in trouble with the court.
When parents divorce, child custody can be one of the acrimonious issues as physical custody and support issues can cause a great deal of conflict. The Florida courts have certain discretions when determining custody, but they are also bound by general federal regulations. Many myths have evolved around child support, and if parents are unable to arrive at a reasonable agreement, a mediator may help them understand the issues and why they are intended to protect the child, not punish the parent.
The legal process can get difficult, which is why we always recommend that you seek the assistance of counsel; or at least have a consultation. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today to review the issues of your case, the legal options you may have, and certain rights that pertain to your unique situation.
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