1. If we have a 50/50 parenting plan there won’t be any child support. (false!)
2. My ex doesn’t want my money so we don’t need a child support order. (false!)
3. If the parenting plan says I have ___ number of days with my kids, child support will be set and it won’t matter how often I actually see them.
4. My ex hasn’t paid the child support so he/she isn’t allowed to see the kids.
5. My take home pay is only $_____ dollars; I can’t afford child support.
Every divorce with minor children is required to have a child support order. It is possible that if the child spends equal time with each parent and the parents’ incomes are similar, that the amount may be small. Even so, one parent will get credit for paying the child’s insurance premiums or daycare expenses, so there will be some amount of money transferred from one parent to the other in the form of child support.
Parents are not allowed to “opt out” of accepting child support because the money is not for you. It is not technically the child’s money either, but is intended to go toward the expenses incurred by having a child in the household that receives the support.
Mistake 3: Often parents complain that their ex regularly misses visits with the children. If this happens you may document the actual time the child spends in each household and have your child support order recalculated to match reality as opposed to what is stated in the parenting plan. If you want to have your child support order changed to reflect the actual time the children spend in each household call Knox County Child Support at 865-215-3322 for more information. The change must represent a 15% change from your current child support order.
Mistake 4: If your ex violates the child support order by not paying they are in legal hot water. However, your responsibility to follow the visitation schedule still remains regardless of your ex-spouse’s behavior. If you do not allow visitation you too are now in violation of a court order. Two wrongs make two wrongs! You can certainly take steps to address the missing child support but punishing your children by not allowing them time with the other parent is not an option. Again you can call 865-215-3322 to start the process of addressing missed child support payments.
Mistake 5: The calculation for child support is straight forward - # of days, gross monthly income, amount you pay toward your children’s insurance, etc. But, couples often disagree on the numbers used for income. First, realize that your take-home pay often does not accurately reflect gross monthly income. Most people have pay roll deductions for retirement, optional insurance plans, or other savings programs. All of those funds are still part of your income even if you’re not used to having them available each month to spend. Gross income is the sum of all your sources of income (minus income from some state assistance programs). If you can’t pay your bills and your child support on your current income you’ll have to get another job or get rid of some of your expenses.
People who work on commission or receive bonuses often have fluctuating incomes. What matters to the court is that the numbers you use are as accurate as they can be because they determine the standard of living that will be available for your child. So in this sense it is your child’s money – not money they get to spend, but money intended to provide comparable standards of living in each parent’s household. The two of you need to decide what number best reflects your typical income. This could be done by taking a multi-year average. You can also have child support recalculated if the new order would represent a 15% change from the existing order or if there is a material change in your circumstances (a child becomes disabled or you are now supporting more children.)
Reality Check: Most parents will not be able to maintain the same standard of living after divorce as before. The simple fact is two households are more expensive than one. This is something you need to accept now – and there is nothing gained in blaming your spouse for putting your family in financial straights by divorcing you. Unless you think reconciliation is a real possibility you’re going to have to accept the financial realties of divorce which are: you will have to live on less and you may have to give your spouse some of your hard earned money to help them provide your children with a reasonable place to live.
Answers to most of your questions can be found (eventually) in the materials available on the State’s child support webpage http://www.tn.gov/humanserv/is/incomeshares.html