The Ultimate Roundup of Kid-Friendly Summer Vacation Ideas for Separated Parents

Vacation Ideas for Separated Parents

Over 2 million children in the US attend school all year round. If your kids aren’t part of this statistic, then school’s out soon, and you need some summer vacation ideas quick!

As you may already know, the novel coronavirus pandemic’s made the world come to a screeching halt. So normal summer vacations may be out of the question.

Plus, you’re either separated or divorced from your partner, which makes parenting during COVID even more difficult.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t still give your kids an amazing summer vacation. You just have to get creative!

To help you out, here are some great vacation ideas during COVID-19 for separated parents.

Forget About International Travel

International travel is already quite a headache to deal with in regular times, especially when you share your kids with your ex. Add in a serious virus and various travel bans, and you’re just asking for trouble. A trip halfway around the world to Japan can wait until next year or beyond.

While some airlines are opening flights back up, plus they’re offering dirt-cheap prices, it may be very tempting to whisk your kids off on a fun international adventure. However, you never know when a second wave might happen anywhere.

Not only can that put the brakes on your vacation plans, but it may even leave you stranded in a foreign country. That dirt-cheap vacation suddenly doesn’t look so good anymore.

Not to mention, everyone will most likely have to self-isolate for at least 2 weeks upon return. If you don’t get any more days with the children after you come home, then your ex probably won’t be very happy with that. So you might have to either risk making them angry or going through the hassle of arranging temporary custody plans for that time.

Take a Road Trip

If you’re going stir-crazy and are set on going on summer vacation with the kids, why not take a road trip? That way, you can control how far you go, depending on your custody plan and budget.

A road trip also ensures that you social distance better. You won’t have to pile into a metro, bus, or train; you’ll travel in the comfort of your own car. 

A road trip gives your family the ability to explore their local surroundings more. You never know; you may have been taking the local scene for granted this whole time!

Go RVing

RVing is a step above taking a road trip in your regular vehicle! This can be a unique experience for the kids, especially if they’ve never done this before.

Staying in an RV can be a special experience, plus it helps with social distancing even more. You can pull up into RV camping grounds every night and the children can get to know other kids (at a safe and appropriate distance, of course).

You’ll get to take in the natural landscapes and your children can get a newfound appreciation for what Mother Nature offers us. You can also really bond with them during this time, since you have to spend all day, every day with one another.

Go Camping

Camping is another way to safely go on summer vacation. This is a great alternative if you don’t want to (or have the budget to) rent out an RV.

Grab your camping gear and the kids, then head out to the nearest national park. You’ll be able to spend quality time with one another and truly disconnect, as many national parks don’t get reception.

Have your children put away their devices and get in touch with nature. Go hiking and swimming, and point out all the flora and fauna around you.

If you have some skills you’ve remembered from Boy Scouts, go ahead and teach your kids these skills too. It can be fun getting back to the basics!

Stay in a Large Resort

Maybe your family doesn’t really like getting down and dirty in nature. That’s ok! For you, there’s always the luxurious resort you can kick back and relax in.

Take a look around at your options and you just may be surprised at what the prices are like. What may have been out of reach in the past might be doable now, since the pandemic’s pushed prices for practically everything down.

Make sure you double-check if they’re following more stringent cleaning procedures. They should be thoroughly sanitizing not just the rooms, but all public areas.

Once you arrive at the resort, you can then make use of their amenities while keeping your distance from other vacationers. Even if the resort has round-the-clock cleaning done, don’t forget to bring your own hand sanitizer so you and the kids decrease your chances of getting sick.

Rent a Vacation House

For those of you who have a smaller budget, you might opt for a vacation house rather than a resort. Get yourself a change of scenery and take the children somewhere where the weather’s nice. You can even combine this with a road trip and have the final destination be the vacation house.

Book a spacious place with plenty of amenities so the kids don’t get bored while on vacation. It should be interesting enough that even though they’re still in a house, they’ll be pleased since it’s something new and exciting.

Renting and staying in a vacation house can be ideal if you don’t want the stress of planning out a vacation and need a break too. Everyone can have a laidback time in this home away from home.

Coordinate With the Other Parent

If you don’t want your kids to have short summer vacations, then you may want to consider coordinating with your ex in order to give your children 1 long vacation. While you may have some form of 50/50 custody agreement, it can work out to an almost uninterrupted vacation for the kids.

For example, if both of you have an interest in visiting a beach city for the summer, you can line up your schedules so you’ll be there one half of the week while they’ll be for the rest. If you want a longer duration, you might be able to compromise on a temporary schedule where each parent gets the kids for 1 or 2 weeks at a time.

Just as your vacation at the beach city is ending, the other parent will start their vacation. All you’ll have to do is hand off the children and they’ll get to continue having a fantastic time there.

Staycation Ideas

Maybe you just don’t feel comfortable taking the kids out for a trip right now. Or maybe you’re too busy and don’t have the budget to leave the city, much less the state or country.

In that case, there are still plenty of family summer vacations you can do at home. Keep reading for some creative staycation ideas you can enjoy with your family.

“Visit” Museums

With lockdowns and social distancing in place for most areas, lots of museums are closed. But if you want to teach your kids some culture and history, not all hope is lost.

Many museums are doing virtual tours. All you have to do is hop online, take a look at their social media accounts or websites, and you’ll be able to find out if they’re doing this or not.

From the comfort of your living room (and pajamas!), you and your children can look at amazing pieces of art and discuss them with one another.

“Visit” Trails

Technology’s great in that they can bring you practically everything in digital form. Not only can you “visit” museums, but you can also go on beautiful trails!

If you’re not feeling up to getting out into nature but still want to show your children the outside world, just queue up virtual walking trails for them on the computer. You’ll get to take in jaw-dropping sights from all around the world!

Don’t Forget About Chores

Who says summer vacation is all about fun and games? Also, who said chores can’t be fun?

Kids have a tendency to get bored, plus you probably want to teach them about responsibility. You can kill 2 birds with 1 stone by making chores more exciting.

Your entire family can have hours of fun doing projects together. Not only will this get them used to responsibility, but they’ll also associate good memories with chores. As a result, they’ll grow up less resistant to the idea of chores and will be more ready to tackle them as teenagers and adults.

Some Tips While You’re Out and About

While some places have fewer COVID-19 cases than others, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Here are some tips to help keep you and your little ones safe this summer.

Bring a COVID-19 Kit

Chances are, you already have a first aid kit you bring along when you’re with the kids. Pack another small bag to bring along that’ll keep the corona germs away.

In this kit, include hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, rubbing alcohol, bleach, disposable gloves, and disposable face masks, even if you have reusable ones. You should also put in a small spray bottle so you can mix cleaning solutions with bleach to spray and rub down surfaces.

Other handy things to put in your COVID-19 kit are soap and paper towels.

Get Your Vehicle Tuned up Before Leaving

All it takes is one minor issue with your vehicle to ruin plans for a whole day. Decrease the chances of this happening by having your car tuned up before you hit the road.

Make sure your wipers are new, all fluids are topped off, and that your tires are full and have decent treads. You can either do all this yourself or have a mechanic perform these services for you.

You’ll also want to double-check you still have a spare tire available.

Bring as Many Essentials as Possible

It may be a pain to do so, especially right before you’re supposed to go have fun with the kids. But with a little bit of preparation, you can decrease the number of trips you’ll need to make to the grocery store while on vacation. Not only will this give you more time to have fun, but this will also reduce your exposure to the virus.

Try filling your car’s trunk up to the brim with essentials, such as snacks, tissues, and drinks. If there’s space in your backseat, fill it up as well. Then, throughout your vacation, you can slowly use those things instead of making extra trips to the grocery store.

Research Healthcare in the Places You’re Going

You can take every precaution possible, but the reality is, nothing’s foolproof. Any one of you could contract the coronavirus, and not just that. You could get the common cold, flu, or even food poisoning or injuries from your trip’s activities.

Should anything happen, you want to be prepared so your family’s well taken care of.

Research the hospitals and walk-in clinics of your destination. Check your health insurance to get a grasp on what is and isn’t covered.

When you have all this knowledge, you’ll have better peace of mind. That way, you can focus more on having fun and making memories with the kids.

Try Out These Fantastic Summer Vacation Ideas

Now you have quite a few suggestions for summer vacation ideas, as well as some tips to make your trip safer and smoother. Once your kids are out of school, you’ll be able to keep them entertained with all of these fun summer activities.

Remember that it’s not where you go, but how you spend your time with one another. Even if you have a staycation, it can be one of the most fun and memorable times for your children. You just have to know how to dress it up and make it exciting!

Need a great way to organize your co-parenting schedule? Then sign up for 2houses today! Our calendar will help you and your ex sync your schedules effortlessly.

COVID and Coparenting: What You Need to Know

COVID and Coparenting

Since COVID-19’s arrival, it has changed nearly everything about daily life. From how we grocery shop and connect with friends and family to where we work and how our children learn, 2020 has brought many changes and challenges to deal with. You’ve already had to figure out how to juggle working from home and crisis schooling, and those who work in essential jobs have had the difficult challenge of trying to ensure the children are taken care of while working in the absence of school and daycares. For those who are coparenting, visitation schedules may have had to have been adjusted or, in the case of high-risk individuals or those who have tested positive for COVID-19, sometimes suspended altogether.

The good news is that many states across the country are starting to reopen for business and attempt to return to “normal” life, but that doesn’t mean everything will instantly revert back to the way it was. As we continue to see what COVID-19 will bring and how it will shape our society and culture moving forward into the rest of 2020 and beyond, here are some challenges that may be coming as summer begins and some tips on how to manage them.

1. Graduations and End-of-School Ceremonies

With many places still having bans on public gatherings or limitations on how many people can be together at once, schools have had to scramble to figure out a way to recognize the graduating class of 2020. Other end-of-school ceremonies have also been impacted, including Kindergarten and middle school graduations, school musicals and recognition ceremonies and banquets.

Some schools have attempted to pivot with these changes by offering virtual ceremonies via video-conferencing apps or drive-through graduations where only one family is allowed through at a time to see their child walk the stage and receive their diploma. While these solutions are creative and have given some much-needed recognition for the students, it hasn’t been without its challenges. In some cases, only one parent is allowed to attend the ceremony or there is a very tight cap on the number of people allowed, which can create issues for divorced and blended families.

If you’re dealing with graduation or end-of-year ceremony issues, being proactive and talking directly with teachers and administrators can be helpful. This is something no one has dealt before, and often, solutions are presented and put in place without actually checking if they are suitable or work for the people involved. Letting your administrator know that you still want your child to have the option of a graduation stage walk or that limiting the guests makes it impossible for both parents to witness can help them better understand the situation, and you may find that exceptions are able to be made. If nothing can be done, brainstorm other ways to make these events special such as drive-by recognitions, virtual parties or having an at-home ceremony in the backyard.

2. Changing Vacation Schedules

You might already have a system worked out for vacations with your coparent, but with COVID-19 cancelling travel plans across the country, your usual destination might not be open or you may have to change vacation weeks. Work schedules might have changed, meaning you can’t take as much vacation time in a row as usual, or you might even opt for a staycation to save money after having to deal with cutbacks in your budget due to time off or unemployment. The bottom line is that summer vacation is probably going to look a lot different for many people this year — and maybe even next — and that means that you’re going to have to work things out with your child’s other parent.

As with most issues involving coparenting, one of the best things you can do is keep the lines of communication open and moving freely. If you already know that you’d like to make some changes to the normal vacation procedures, start talking to the other parent as soon as possible. Most standard custody and visitation agreements have periods of notification set out in writing, which means that if you want to make a change or need to let the other parent know when you’re planning on taking your vacation time, you have to do it a certain number of days in advance. Otherwise, the other parent can say no, and the default schedule remains in place.

Remember to be civil and realize that everyone has had to make changes and adjustments during this time and that this trend will likely continue. Cooperating with each other and ensuring that everyone has the details of planned or possible vacation times easily accessible on a joint calendar or something similar can make the process as smooth as possible.

3. Uncertain Schooling for Fall

The 2019-2020 school year is just wrapping up in most parts of the country, but things are still uncertain when it comes to what schooling will look like in the fall. Some colleges have said that they will reopen on-campus classes for the 2020-2021 academic year, but most K-12 schools are still trying to figure out how to manage the large number of students in the building while complying with new rules for social distancing and cleaning. Some schools are tossing around the idea of a hybrid model that would have students going to in-person classes 2-3 days a week and doing remote learning on the other days. Other schools are considering longer class days or year-round schooling so that they can accommodate small class sizes.

There’s also the possibility that you might choose not to have your children return to public schools in the fall. Some parents have expressed how much happier they are connecting on a more frequent basis with their children, and those who are being allowed to continue to work at home might be exploring the ideas of homeschooling or enrolling children in an online school where they will have more control over what the school day looks like come fall.

If you have sole custody, what your child’s education looks like next year is probably up to you. In most cases, the sole custodian has full decision-making permissions when it comes to educational issues, but if you have shared parenting, this is something you will need to discuss with the other parent and come to an agreement on. And even if you are planning on having your child return to traditional public school, there may need to be some changes to what that looks like on the home front depending on how the district decides to move forward.

As you’re contemplating these decisions or waiting on word from your district, it may be helpful to start talking to the other parent about possible scenarios and solutions so you’re prepared to move forward when decisions are made. For example, if your school chooses to move to the hybrid model, maybe one of you has a more flexible job and can work from home on the days your child isn’t at school. No matter what you decide or how you choose to handle things, however, it will be important to stay flexible as changes are likely if not inevitable as the next school year progresses.

4. Anxieties, Fears and Burnout (on Both Sides)

The truth is that life changed significantly and quickly for most people at the beginning of 2020, and whether that meant increased work hours, job loss or just major adjustments with more people at home all day, the emotional and mental toll is real for both parents and children. Depending on the age of your children, you may be dealing with younger kids who have anxieties about getting sick, tweens who are trying to suddenly navigate a life without in-person friendships or high school graduates who are upset about not getting to have all their “lasts” and are worried about what this will all mean for college next year. And the mental health and burnout toll juggling all of this has had on parents — especially single parents — is immeasurable.

During this time, it’s important to remember that mental and emotional health is just as important as physical health. And while the demands of jobs and schooling may be significant, it’s important to place a priority on getting out in the fresh air, engaging in physical activity that brings you joy, such as hiking or dancing, and making time for just plain fun. Having a family meeting to create an open discussion about how everyone is feeling and what they need can give you a place to start, and asking children for suggestions on how to cope, such as family game nights or making a summer garden together, can help them feel like valued contributors who have a voice. It may also be helpful to look at telecommute counseling sessions for the whole family, including the coparent, if there are significant issues or you feel like the family could benefit from an objective outsider’s perspective.

No matter what the second half of the year and beyond brings, the key to successfully navigating coparenting during this time is open communication and the free exchange of information. One of the best ways to facilitate this is with a coparenting app like 2Houses. This app includes a joint calendar that makes keeping track of kids’ activities, parenting schedules and cancellations simple and easy, and you can message right within the app so all communication is in writing and in one place. There are also features that let you keep track of expenditures for reimbursement and an info bank so everything has access to important information like teachers’ numbers, medical information and anything else you need both parents to have access to. As we continue to see how the COVID-19 will coparenting moving forward, 2Houses makes it easy to keep everyone in the loop and cooperate when adjustments and changes need to be made.

What the Child Support Modification Process Actually Looks Like

child support modification

There are nearly 14 million single parents in America with custody of their children. Around half of those have some form of child support arrangement in place. 

Almost 90 percent of such agreements are court-ordered. Most were established at the time of separation. 

But what happens when your needs or life circumstances change? Requesting a child support modification is possible but it’s important to understand the process before you jump in.  

Keep reading to learn how it works and to get powerful co-parenting tips that can make the process easier for everyone.

Who Can Request a Child Support Modification?

Child support modifications can be requested by:

  • The custodial parent
  • The non-custodial parent
  • Other legal caregivers

In rare cases, a state or local child support agency may request a child support review. This typically happens when other legal proceedings bring inappropriate child support agreements to the agency’s attention. 

When Can You Ask for a Child Support Modification?

The child support review process is serious and always requires court involvement. For this reason, there are legal limits on when and how often parents can undergo it. 

Generally, parties can request modifications when the:

  • Child’s needs have changed
  • Custodial parent’s circumstances have changed
  • Non-custodial parent’s circumstances have changed
  • Child support agreement is more than three years old
  • Relevant child support laws have changed

For example, you might request a child support payment review if: 

  • You or your ex have changed jobs or experienced a significant change of income
  • You or your ex have remarried or had more children
  • Your custody arrangement has changed 
  • Your child’s health needs or access to health insurance has changed
  • You have suffered a health crisis or other emergency
  • The non-custodial parent becomes incarcerated, is deployed by the United States military, or becomes disabled  

Custodial Parents or Caregivers

It can be tempting for custodial parents to request child support reviews regularly in hopes of receiving more support. It is important to resist that temptation, however. 

This is because there are hard limits to how often you may request a child support modification. Child support laws vary by state, but almost all states limit parents to one or two reviews every 24 to 36 months.

If you ask for reviews over small changes in your ex’s income, you can quickly use up your allotted requests with very little to show for it. Once your requests are used up, you will not be able to petition for any other changes until the 24 or 36 month waiting period has elapsed.

If your circumstances, your child’s needs, or your ex’s income change during that time, you will be unable to request the additional support you might otherwise have been entitled to until the waiting period ends.

To avoid finding yourself in that unpleasant and stressful situation, only request reviews when they are truly warranted. A good rule of thumb is to wait until you expect to see a change of at least 20 percent or $100 a month to your support payments. 

Non-Custodial Parents

Non-custodial parents should be careful when requesting child support modifications, as well.

Generally, courts will only entertain requests from non-custodial parents to alter child support payments when they have experienced a sharp drop in their income or serious changes to their health. In every case, courts require that non-custodial parents be able to clearly document their change in circumstances and show that it is significant enough to warrant altering the agreement. 

It is also important to be aware of the specific laws in your state. For example, in many states choosing to quit your job does not merit a change to your child support payments.

You will still be expected to continue paying the same amount on time each month. Failure to do so can have grave consequences. You may wish to consider consulting a child support lawyer before making big changes to your employment or income. 

Losing Income

With all of that said, if your circumstances do dramatically and involuntarily change, it is important to act quickly. 

Your existing child support requirements do not change when your circumstances change, even if those changes are out of your control. Payments are not altered or suspended when you request a review. You remain responsible for your pre-existing level of support unless or until new terms are approved by the court. 

Child support cannot be retroactively altered or reduced, either. Even applying for bankruptcy will not eliminate back payments due.

Thus, if you lose your job or take a much lower-paying job, it is critical that you apply for a child support review immediately. In the meantime, keep making your payments to the best of your ability to demonstrate good faith. 

Temporary Modifications

Not all changes to child support payments need to be permanent. In many cases, courts will approve temporary child support modifications in response to short-term or emergency circumstances. 

Common examples include when: 

  • Your child experiences a costly medical emergency or requires surgery
  • The non-custodial parent has a medical emergency or significant temporary change to finances
  • Your child is temporarily entrusted to the non-custodial parent when the custodial parent is unable to take care of them

In most cases, temporary modifications last only as long as the emergency or special circumstances that prompted them. When the situation is resolved, both parties revert to the terms of their previous agreement.

Permanent Modifications 

Permanent modifications to child support are appropriate when circumstances permanently change for the child or one or both of the parents involved. This includes changes to:

  • Income
  • Health
  • Family composition 
  • Cost of living

Changes to relevant child support laws can also prompt permanent changes to your child support agreement. 

What Information Will You Need to Request a Child Support Review?

One of the steps most overlooked by parents investigating how to modify child support is gathering information. The court will not simply take anyone’s word for changes to their life, income, or needs. To request a child support payment review, you will need to be able to document your claims. 

Depending on your circumstances and the basis of your request, this can include providing proof of: 

  • Parental income
  • Parents’ benefits (including health insurance) 
  • Child care costs
  • Health records
  • Incarceration or deployment status 
  • Remarriage or the birth of a new child
  • Existing custody arrangements 

In the event that your income has dropped, you may also be required to provide evidence that you made or are making good-faith attempts to find new employment. Specifically, the court may look to see that you searching for work that pays the same amount as your previous position or more. If you are not, you may need to explain the discrepancy. 

Uncontested Changes

If you are fortunate, you and your ex have been able to forge a friendship in the wake of your divorce. If so, you may be able to amicably negotiate new child support terms between yourselves or with the help of a private mediator. 

These arrangements still need to be ratified by the court. Often, however, you can skip the formal hearing in favor of a faster, more informal “in-office negotiation” to get that approval. This is less costly and less stressful for everyone, making it a great option if your circumstances allow. 

How the Child Support Modification Process Works

Unfortunately, healthy and positive communication with your ex isn’t always possible. In that case, you’ll need to rely on your state’s formal child support review process for modifications. The exact process can vary slightly from state to state, so it vital that you consult your state’s laws or a legal professional to ensure you follow the steps correctly. 

In general, however, the process looks like this. 

1. Gather Information

Get certified copies of whatever records you need to prove changes to your costs, living situation, or health, where relevant. If you are applying for a modification because you believe that your ex’s income has changed, the court will require them to provide that information. 

You may also wish to consult a lawyer during this step. 

2. Apply to the Court

In most states, you submit your request for a child support review to the court that handled your initial child support order. If you are struggling with unpaid child support or require other assistance, it may be helpful to contact your state’s child support agency instead. They can assist you with the process. 

3. Attend the Hearing

The court will schedule a hearing to conduct your child support payment review. If you have secured legal counsel, your lawyer will attend with you. Bring copies of your documentation and be prepared to explain your situation and why you think changes are warranted. 

The judge assigned to your case will review the facts and determine what changes, if any, are appropriate. If they find that changes are warranted, they will modify your child support agreement and specify when the changes go into effect. Be sure to obtain a new copy of your agreement for your records. 

Automatic Adjustments 

In some states, such as California, child support agreements can contain automatic adjustment clauses. The cost of living adjustment is a prime example. Automatic adjustment clauses call for child support payments to automatically be modified at set intervals based on external factors. 

For example, each year your payments may be adjusted to compensate for increases in the cost of living in your area. You do not need to request these changes and they will not count against your allotted review requests. 

The court will keep track of when these are due, calculate the new rates, and notify both parties when the changes go into effect.  

How Long Does It Take?

There is no set time limit on the child support review process. Typically, when you file for a review the court is required to respond to or act on your filing within a certain amount of time. For example, they may have to notify your ex of the filing within 180 days. 

How long it takes to complete the process will depend on, among other things: 

  • The availability of court resources
  • Your ex’s cooperativeness
  • The complexity of your case

For example, if the court has difficulty locating your ex to serve them with papers or if they are incarcerated or deployed and difficult to get ahold of, going through the review may be a slow process. Similarly, if either party is alleging medical conditions the court may require second opinions, expert consultations, or other steps that delay reaching a decision. 

Simple cases in which both parties cooperate and have good documentation upfront will, of course, go the fastest. 

Hiring a Lawyer

You are not legally required to hire a lawyer to assist you during a child support review. It is legal in every state to initiate the process and represent yourself from start to finish. Unless you and your ex have a highly amicable divorce, however, it is always in your best interest to hire legal counsel.

In all cases, if your ex has a lawyer then you need one, too.  

Family law attorneys understand how to modify child support in your state. They have a deep understanding of the standards, loopholes, and other details that can make or break your case. Their assistance can make the difference between setting up child support arrangements that genuinely provide the best outcomes for your children and muddling through with agreements that serve no one.

If you cannot afford a lawyer, talk to your state’s child support agency. They can provide you with an attorney or assist you in finding qualified and affordable legal services. 

What Does Requesting a Child Support Payment Review Cost?

It is impossible to put a single number or range on the costs of a child support payment review and modification. Costs not only vary by state, but by the situation. 

Uncontested cases that merely need rubber-stamping by a judge are always the most affordable. Contentious and complicated cases are understandably more likely to be expensive. At the same time, free or low-cost legal services can enable qualifying applicants to deal with even the messiest of cases for little or no money at all. 

If cost is a concern, contact your local child support agency for help and guidance. 

Handling Divorce and Child Support Well

Handling child support modification cases is only one of the challenges involved in dealing with divorce in a healthy, positive way. Strong co-parenting skills can make this and other day-to-day concerns easier and less stressful to deal with. Check out 2houses’s great library of co-parenting tips and articles to get more information on building your best life after divorce.  

Under What Circumstances Am I Eligible for Child Support Payments?

Child support payments

Of the 13.6 million custodial single parents living in the US, about half of them had some type of legal or informal child support agreement in place in 2018.

If you’re a single parent, you should have a basic understanding of child support eligibility. Every parent in the US must contribute financially to the raising of his or her child—unless parental rights have been legally terminated. 

Child support eligibility and amount varies depending on your individual needs and circumstances. Keep reading for an overview of child support and the eligibility requirements that allow for child support payments.

What Is Child Support?

As a child matures, the parents have a financial responsibility to support them. It’s assumed that—if you are the custodial parent— you will fulfill your financial obligation. However, if your child doesn’t live with your ex, they may have to pay support to you.

Child support payments are ordered by a court and are required until your child reaches the age of 18, is active-duty military, or the court declares your child emancipated. The non-custodial parent may be required to make payments beyond childhood if your child has special needs. 

If you agree that the non-custodial parent no longer has to pay child support, the court may legally terminate their parental rights and any financial responsibility. They may also do this if someone else adopts your child.

Responsibility for Child Support Begins with Custody

While each state has different guidelines, the court typically determines the final amount of child support payments. The judge begins the discussion of child support with custody. 

The non-custodial parent is typically responsible for most of the child support if you have sole custody. If you’re a stay-at-home provider or work part-time to care for your child, you may not be able to financially support the child on their own. The child support payment amount will reflect this.

Joint Custody and Child Support

When parents share joint custody, calculating child support payments is more complicated. Determining child support payments in joint custody cases usually accounts for two factors.

The first factor is the percentage each parent contributed to the joint income during their marriage. The parent who contributed more to the joint income will pay more towards child support.

The second factor is the percentage of time each parent has physical custody of the child. The court will assume that whoever has the child more often will assume most of the financial responsibility. The parent that spends less time with your child will pay more because the other parent devotes more of their physical, financial, and emotional resources. 

It would be easier to determine child support payments if there was a clear-cut formula, but that’s not the case. The amount depends on individual factors that are unique to each custody situation and child. 

How Child Support Payment Amounts Are Determined

To determine amounts of child support, the court looks at the parents’ income and the time each parent has physical custody. 

The court may identify income in several ways, including:

  • Wages
  • Tips
  • Commissions
  • Social Security benefits
  • Self-employment earnings
  • Bonuses
  • Annuities
  • Interest
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Veteran’s benefits
  • Private or Government Retirement benefits
  • Pensions

Determining Child Support for Previously Unmarried Parents

Don’t make the mistake of thinking someone doesn’t owe child support because they were never married to the other parent. 

Unmarried parents are still responsible for child support, but determining the amount becomes more complicated. Whether the child ever lived with both of you, your resources, the non-custodial parent’s income, and the ability to make payments factor into determining the amount of child support. 

The time each of you actually spends with your child will also come into play. 

Just as is the case for divorced parents, children are entitled to support from parents who were never married. Stepparents, however, don’t need to legally financially support their stepchildren. They can adopt the children, but this would terminate the biological parent’s requirement to pay.

Additional Factors that Affect Child Support Requirements

Don’t go into child support proceedings blind. Know what to expect by acquainting yourself with the process in your state.

Once a judge sets custody and reviews the unique circumstances of your case, he or she will set the number and amount of support payments based on several factors, including:

  • Your child’s quality of life prior to the parents’ divorce 
  • The income of the parent who has to pay child support 
  • All expenses associated with providing for your child
  • The specific needs of your child
  • The income and other resources available to you

The more a parent earns, the more they will be expected to pay in child support. Courts are good at recognizing financial hardship, and they’re able to calculate what a non-custodial parent needs to live while supporting the child. 

Judges also look at what your family’s living conditions were prior to the split. If your child is used to a high standard of living, the non-custodial parent may have to pay enough to help your child maintain that quality of life. 

The court also takes into account the resources you, as the custodial parent, has access to. If you make a good income, the other parent may not have to pay as much. They’ll also look at your support system, including any family members that help financially. 

Adjusting Child Support Payments

Child support payment requirements are listed in court orders, so it takes legal action to amend them. However, any change in circumstances may mean your child support payments must be revised. 

If you decrease the time your child is physically in your custody, and they spend more time with the non-custodial parent, the court may lower your child support payments. A judge might also reduce child support payments if the parent paying support loses their job and is unemployed. They may do the same if the other parent is forced to take a job that pays less.

Judges are not as accommodating to parents who quit their job out of laziness, to pursue a hobby, or to go back to school. They do look at getting fired differently than voluntarily leaving a job—especially if it seems like the parent quit their job to avoid making child support payments. 

Temporary changes to child support payments are granted when emergency strikes, or if the non-custodial parent is facing short-term financial hardship. At the same time, you may receive extra child support if you suddenly experience financial difficulties. 

You must go to court to have child support amounts legally changed, even if you agree to changes to the payments. 

Consequences of Not Paying Child Support

Because the court sets the amount of child support payments, they can take action if the non-custodial parent refuses to pay. Consequences include:

  • Property seizure
  • Suspension of your driver’s license
  • Suspension of your business license
  • Tax refund interception
  • Arrest and time in jail
  • Wage garnishment

It’s vital that the non-custodial parent notifies the court if it’s suddenly difficult for them to pay support as ordered before the problem gets out of control. Most judges have no patients for missed child support payments, so they must be upfront and honest about any financial hardship. 

What Happens if Payments Stop?

If you’re receiving child support and the other parent stops paying, you must contact your state or district attorney. State agencies must help you collect any delinquent child support payments—this is according to federal law. 

See if your state has a Recovery Services office. They will help you track down the other parent and recover missed payments that are owed to you.

As you can see, it’s essential to keep records of the payments received, as well as copies of the court orders that establish the payments and schedule. You can easily get the help you need to collect delinquent payments with this information. 

Is Support Connected to Visitation?

In some cases, parents threaten to withhold payments amid visitation disagreements. 

If you don’t let the other parent see your child as ordered by the court, your ex cannot retaliate by withholding or threatening to withhold child support payments. This practice is illegal and is hurtful to your child. 

The court views visitation and child support as separate issues. Never withhold visitation because you’re expecting a payment that hasn’t arrived yet. If the non-custodial parent doesn’t get to exercise their visitation rights, they can take you and any evidence to the court to have the agreement enforced. 

Each of you should do your part in providing for your child and ensure visitation isn’t disrupted when there are disagreements over support.

Income Taxes and Child Support

Do you have to pay income taxes on child support from your ex on behalf of your children? No. And the parent who pays child support cannot deduct it from their income. 

Can I Claim My Child as a Dependent?

Whichever one of you claims your child as a dependent on your taxes is eligible to receive a significant tax deduction. 

In most cases, whoever has the child for most of the year claims him or her as a dependent. Both parents can’t claim the same dependent—only one of you can claim your child on a tax return. 

If you and your ex cannot agree, it’s best to get a knowledgeable tax attorney involved. You and the non-custodial parent might be on the same page about who claims your child as a dependent. Either way, it can help to have an experienced tax attorney work out the intimate details of the deduction.

Can the Dependent Tax Exemption Be Transferred?

For each individual claimed as a dependent, the IRS allows a taxpayer a single exemption. 

There are cases in which the non-custodial parent can receive an exemption for your child. If you complete and sign Form 8332, you can transfer the exemption to the other parent. The other parent should file the form with their tax return.

If you make a low-income and won’t benefit from the exemption, you might choose to transfer your exemption. 

If your ex has a higher adjusted gross income and can benefit from the deduction, they can do something in return for the deduction. You can even use this as a bargaining child in divorce settlement negotiations.

You can also arrange to allocate the dependents between the two of you if you have multiple children. The best thing to do is to check with your attorney and work out a situation that benefits everyone involved.  

It’s possible to agree in this situation, especially if the two of you find yourselves in different income tax brackets. 

Don’t Miss Out On Child Support Payments

Raising a child comes with a financial burden, especially when single. 

If you’re the custodial parent to your child, you must ensure you receive your legally granted child support from your ex. 

Make sure you understand your state’s laws associated with child support payments, and always keep records of any payments received. You never know when you might have to prove that the other parent is delinquent on payments. 

Have you been searching for resources on paying or receiving child support? What challenges have you faced? Do you have experiences to share? Share this article with your comments to help others as they search for answers.