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. 

The Complete Guide That Makes Managing Co-Parenting Expenses Simple

Co-parenting

As 40 to 50% of US marriages end in divorce, chances are many of us will face the changes that come with separating from a spouse. When there are children involved and finances to manage, the situation is far more intimidating.

If you and your ex are co-parenting with a joint custody schedule, you may already realize that agreeing on a fair way to split child expenses it harder than it seems.

Life isn’t linear, especially when it comes to children, so there’s no secret formula to budgeting for co-parents. You can let a mediator or judge decide how to divide your cash—from everything from shoes to college—but what if your child wants to play sports? Or go to an amusement park with friends? It may be no big deal to you, but your ex may not have the resources to support those activities. 

If one of you can’t meet your financial obligations, you may have to suffer through some difficult conversations. Keep reading for tips on navigating these conversations, creating a budget, and saving money as a co-parent.

Tips for Managing Co-Parenting Expenses

When managing co-parenting expenses, both people must improvise and compromise. Every individual, couple, and divorce is different, so there is no single answer. 

As you search for an answer as to how to split clothing, activities, and other expenses, try the following tips.

Learn How to Communicate

Many couples make communication harder than it already is. Both parties should hear out the other person’s point of view. Sure, one parent may “win,” but you also may be able to meet in the middle. 

Parents are more likely to be amicable to each other and agree if the activity and expenses are discussed beforehand. It’s crucial that both parents feel a part of the decision-making process. 

For successful communication, try to limit your demands and any passive-aggressive snarks. Simply talk and listen to what the other parent wants to say. Of course, this is often easier said than done. 

Communication may be the reason you and your ex-partner didn’t work out—some people just aren’t good at communicating. If you’re just learning how to co-parent successfully, here are some communication guidelines:

  • Talk about expectations as early in the divorce process as possible. Being open in the beginning can prevent misunderstandings later. 
  • Determine which expenses are essential and which aren’t. Establish boundaries around your income and personal savings. 
  • Be prepared to choose your battles. You will not always agree 100% on decisions. If you can’t see eye-to-eye, determine whether its genuinely worth fighting over. Be ready to move on and focus on the needs of your child.

Develop a System for Dividing Expenses

Some extra items and activities won’t be covered in court or meditation, so you may want to follow the court’s lead when deciding how to split them. 

Start by looking at your divorce decree. The decree usually spells out the designated responsibilities of each co-parent. It will typically clearly break out specific cost responsibilities. You can use this as your guide to communicating about shared expenses.

Typically, if a judge finds certain expenses to be reasonable and necessary, they will be divided proportionately to the parents’ income. The parent who makes more money will pay more of the extraordinary expense. 

Another way to approach these expenses is for the parent who feels most strongly about the activity should pay most or all of the money. When your ex feels your child should have an expensive item or participate in an extravagant event, they can foot the bill and vice versa.

Also, don’t sweat the small stuff. If your ex owes you a small amount, like $5, you should take one for the team. Then, you may see the other parent adapt in ways you hadn’t expected, like offering to babysit or bringing you coffee to your kid’s next football game. 

The key here is to put out positive and friendly energy because you will usually get it in return. 

Careful Discussing Finances With Children

If you have negative views towards the way your ex spends their money, save it for a friend or your therapist. For example, you might think your ex is a narcissist who splurges for themselves but rarely for your kids.

It might make you feel better to rant about how uncaring and selfish your ex is, but those comments make yourself feel good, not your children.

Parents should avoid involving the children in discussions about why they can’t afford certain activities or things. And they should never, ever throw the “I can’t afford to take you there because I have to pay mommy child support” card. 

You don’t have to keep your kids in the dark about your financial situation due to the divorce. You must, however, talk about it in a way that doesn’t place blame on your ex—or unwittingly, to your child.

Most experts agree that the more parents try to help their children understand finances, the more capable they are in managing their expectations about what they can have—or do—when they are with one parent or the other. 

Put the Kids First

You’ll hear this time and time again but always put the kids first. However, it’s not easy to do. For this reason, each parent should embrace “put the kids first” as their mantra instead of incessantly nickel-and-diming each other.

You don’t have to cast your needs aside. A situation may come up in which one parent unexpectedly picks up a significant expense, and the next time this happens, the other parent is willing to step up and cover it.

If it will work for you and your spouse, track “extra” expenses paid throughout the year, then make it equitable and fair at year-end.

Whichever way you decide to handle your co-parenting expenses, be sure its a system that works for the long haul. As co-parents, you may be splitting expenses for longer than you’d expect. 

Avoid Lawyers if You Can

Whenever possible, avoid attorney fees and go the mediation route unless you can work it out fairly and amicably together. 

Families can waste thousands of dollars in court and attorney fees. If there is any way you and your ex can put your egos aside and agree to a collaborative divorce, this will save you a lot of time and heartache. 

Fees wasted in court could go along way in the family fund—think theme parks and beach trips. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Be Creative

One way to manage expenses is to put all costs related to your children on a credit card held in both parents’ names. You can charge clothes, sports equipment and fees, school costs, dental and eye care, and more to this card. Then, parents split the bill at the end of the month and rarely have to discuss expenses.

Similarly, some co-parents choose to put money into a joint bank account and access the funds using debit cards. When determining how much to put into the savings account, you could choose equal sums or a pro-rated amount based on income.

How to Create a Co-Parenting Budget for a Joint Custody Schedule

You can share expenses without a budget. Having a shared budget for childcare expenses can smooth out the co-parenting process.

Your budget should include all the child-related expenses you’ve agreed to share, and how much each of you contributes. You can also create a budget that consists of the costs that you each assume sole responsibility for.

Commonly shared expenses by co-parents include things such as:

  • Babysitting services
  • Daycare or after-school care
  • Health and dental care
  • Clothing
  • Extracurricular activities (think sports, art classes, music lessons, etc.)
  • Field trips and other school activities
  • Camp fees
  • Birthday parties
  • Private school tuition
  • Contributions for college savings-accounts

How your custody is shared, and your respective incomes will determine how you split these expenses. If you have an equal custody arrangement, a 50-50 split may be the best choice. However, a 70-30 split is popular for situations where one parent makes significantly more. 

You should also include housing and food costs in your co-parenting budget. How you split these costs will also depend and vary due to the custody arrangement, parents’ income, and whether one parent provides financial support to the other. 

For example, if one parent has primary custody of the children, they may be responsible for covering housing and food with child support or alimony supplementation. 

Don’t forget that there are long-term expenses that come with raising children, including purchasing their first car and paying for college. If your written plan covers these expenses, you can view how costs will be divided—in black and white. Then, you can plan your budget accordingly.

Use Digital Tools to Your Advantage

If the idea of a budget on paper intimidates you, there are apps and tools available to help you manage the money side of co-parenting. 

Miscommunication regarding which items each parent pays for is usually the place where co-parents will argue—inputting data into an app that both parties have access to leaves less room for that bickering.

Managing your data digitally also creates a paper trail, which ensures that each parent upholds what is in their decree while keeping lawyers in the loop.

2houses offers a simple financial management tool. For co-parents, 2houses helps you manage shared expenses while continuously displaying the balance. This transparency ensures that accounts are reconciled and healthy. 

The app even includes the capability to send payment invitations to the other parent.

Let’s say you want to suggest the purchase of a new jacket and send a photo, or need advice on a future gift for one of your kids. You can use the wishlist feature to keep track of these situations easily.

It’s also simple to keep track of expenses and export reports—in CSV or PDF format—by period or expenditure category.

Tips for Saving Money

Finding savings while devising a co-parenting budget can make it even easier to get along. To lower expenses, try the following tips:

  • If both parents are on good terms with one another’s family, perhaps a family member could help with babysitting. This arrangement could lessen daycare or childcare costs. 
  • Try to minimize driving time when structuring your custody plan to help lower transportation costs. 
  • Both parents should review their health insurance plans to decide whether their plan is the most cost-effective for covering children. If you have one, take advantage of your Health Savings Account (HSA).
  • Talk through tax filing. It could save you more money to alternate claiming the kids each year, but it might make sense for one parent to always claim them as dependents. Find a tax professional who can find you the most significant savings.
  • Again, work out issues together without turning to attorneys. Separate emotions and focus on your goal: the children. 

Managing shared costs is often stressful, so using these tips can lessen the stress on the parents and kids alike. 

It’s Time to Get on the Same Financial Page

Separation and adjusting to a joint custody schedule isn’t the only factor that can impact family resources. Children grow up in single-home families where a parent loses their job, a parent changes careers and goes back to school, someone gets sick, etc. These are all life changes that impact a family’s budget.  

When co-parenting, talk to your kids in positive, constructive ways about budget changes. Having a can-do attitude will contribute to their healthy resilience when faced with change when they are later adults.

Commit to working together as co-parents to improve family life for you and your children. If you’re ready to try 2houses for your family budget, contact us today for a 14-day trial!

Parenting in the Land of The Midnight Sun: What to Know About Alaska Child Support

Alaska Child support

What to Know About Alaska Child Support?

In 2018, Alaska had one of the highest divorce rates in America. Statistics on how many of those couples had children at the time of their divorce aren’t clear. However, a 2019 study found that Alaska’s most searched phrase relating to divorce was “child custody.”

Going through a divorce is difficult. Coping with emotional stressors while also parsing out legal ownership of property is difficult enough. For many couples, helping their children cope with this major life change while also determining issues of custody and child support is the hardest part of a divorce.

We get many questions about Alaska child support. Each state has its own laws and determinations dictating who is required to pay child support and how much they must pay.

Read on for our guide to Alaska child support so you can navigate this difficult time knowledgeably and focus on what is best for your children.

The Basics of Alaska Child Support

Both state and federal laws state that child support is not optional, nor can it be waived. Ultimately, these laws are in place to ensure that every child of divorce is taken care of to the best of both parents’ abilities.

The first thing you and your former partner will need to decide upon is a parenting plan. While this plan will eventually be codified by law, it should begin with an open and honest reflection of both parents’ desires and availability as well as the child’s needs. While some couples are able to figure this out between the two of them, others may request the help of a mediator.

There are two distinct components to a parenting plan.

The first is the parenting schedule. This includes the days and times that a child will be with each parent. It also includes decisions about who will provide transportation of the child and who will fund that transportation.

The second is the decision making. In other words, parents will need to decide who has the responsibility of making major decisions regarding health, education, and social issues for the child. Some parents decide to make these decisions together while others agree that one parent will have more (or all) of that deciding power.

Once the parents have decided on a parenting plan, the judge in charge of their case will weigh in and make the final decision. The judge will consider a number of factors relating to the child’s best interest. These factors range from the love and affection between the child and each parent to the ability each parent has to meet the child’s needs.

Four Types of Legal Parenting Schedules in Alaska

The court will use one of four terms to describe a legally agreed-upon parenting schedule. The one you and your partner settle on will affect the amount of child support you will pay.

  1. Primary physical custody entails that one parent has the child more than 70% of the year. That means that in one year, one parent will have the child for at least 256 overnights.
  2. Shared physical custody entails that the child is with each parent for at least 30% of the year. That means each parent would have the child for at least 110 overnights.
  3. Divided custody applies when the parents have more than one child together. It is considered divided custody when one parent has primary custody of one child and the other parent has primary custody of another child.
  4. Hybrid custody also applies when the parents have more than one child together. It entails that while one parent may have primary custody of one child, shared custody applies to one or more of their other children.

What if One Parent is Moving Out of State?

In some cases, one parent may want to move to a new state. This will affect the judge’s decision about the legal parenting schedule.

Let’s look at an example. Say you and your partner have raised your child in Alaska for the child’s entire life and one parent wants to leave Alaska. The judge may decide that the parent staying in Alaska will receive primary custody if continuity and stability are deemed important factors in the child’s life.

However, if the moving parent had a credible case for bringing the child with them, the judge would examine the reasons behind their choice to move. They would look for reasons that the move was legitimate. For example, if the parent was moving for the sake of a promotion or to access better childcare for the child, the judge may rule in favor of that parent.

The parent paying child custody would be held to the laws the child is living in. In other words, if the child moved to or remained in Alaska, the parent would abide by Alaska child custody laws regardless of their own place of living.

In the event that you and your former spouse will no longer be living in the same state, prepare your child for the absence of a parent. The more you communicate with them, the easier it will be for them to understand why this change has occurred and adjust to their new circumstances!

How is Child Support Calculated?

When you’re calculating child support, you will always start with this basic formula: Gross Income – Deductions = Adjusted Income 

Further along, we will discuss the various expenses that count as deductions in this case. For now, let’s talk at length about the way your Adjusted Income (or AI) relates to the different Alaska child support payments.

The most straightforward child support calculation is in the case of primary custody. The non-custodial will be expected to pay the following:

  • 1 kid: AI x 20%
  • 2 kids: AI x 27%
  • 3 kids: AI x 33%

If you have more than 3 kids, add an additional 3% for each child.

Because child support calculations are more complicated in the case of shared, divided, or hybrid custody, we will link you to an Alaska child support calculator for each one. These calculations will vary based on the separate incomes of both you and your former spouse. They will also vary based on the length of time you each care for your child or children.

How Much Child Support Do I Owe?

In the state of Alaska, child support payments are to be made once a month. In other words, you will need to divide the percentage of your AI that you owe for child support by 12. This will show you the amount you owe in monthly installments.

Alaska child support laws determine that child support is due until the child is 19 years of age in certain circumstances. If the child is still in high school or is living with their custodial parent and unmarried at age 18, child support is still due until their 19th birthday.

We know that there are some months where bills and other expenses pile up. As much as parents want to make every child support payment on time, it doesn’t always happen. Note that in Alaska, you can be charged up to 6% interest on late child support payments.

What is Deductible from My Gross Annual Income?

Calculating your AI can be a bit confusing. Let’s talk a bit about what counts as your Gross Annual Income and what expenses or payments you can deduct from that.

Your Gross Annual Income includes wages and disability pay. It also includes SSDI, unemployment, and work benefits such as meals or housing. Finally, it includes any non-taxable benefits you may receive from the military or similar organization.

Now let’s talk a bit about what you can deduct from your Gross Annual Income. Because this can get a bit confusing, it can be helpful to work with a lawyer or mediator to figure out not only what your deductibles are but how much of your Gross Annual Income they account for.

The list of deductible income includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Federal taxes that are owed
  • State unemployment insurance
  • Medicare and Social Security
  • Mandatory and voluntary retirement contributions
  • Childcare paid for the child or children in question that you cover so that you can work
  • Child support you owe for a child from a previous relationship

Note that this list does not include all deductibles but rather the most commonly cited deductibles.

If you are paying child support for a child living in Alaska but you live in another state, record the taxes you pay. This includes state and local taxes and these are also deductible.

Focus On Your Child’s Needs

Getting through a divorce and figuring out Alaska child support laws can be difficult. Remember, as you go through this process, that things will reach a new normal soon and that this stress is only temporary. In the meantime, focus as much of your attention as you can on your child’s needs.

Important things to consider for illinois child support calculation

Illinois child custody

After divorce or separation of parents, children are the one who suffers the most. The separated parents have a huge responsibility on their shoulders to provide necessary child support to their children so that they can continue to live a happy and joyous life even after such tragedies. Hence, there are certain rules involved when calculating a parent’s financial responsibility to support their children in the future. Physical and mental health conditions of the child are one of the many factors that a court considers when allocating the payments of child support. The well-being of the child will be always of utmost importance in the court’s eyes. Apart from this, for child support, parents can also enter into a legal agreement, and once it is approved by the court, the parents can implement it accordingly.

Why Child Support is Important?

Before discussing the complex calculations involved in the child support program, it is quite important for both parents to understand why child support is important for their children. Child support basically refers to paying a particular amount of money by a non-custodial parent to the custodial parent with an objective to support children financially. When parents separate, children require the dire need of support both emotionally and financially. Hence, protecting children both emotionally and financially is the utmost responsibility of parents, even if they don’t spend their lives together under one roof. When parents do not get involved in supporting their child, these poor lads may not get an opportunity they deserve and require in order to grow with the maximum potential.

Raising children is no doubt a critical task, whether the parents are separated or living under one roof. But, specifically after divorce, the financial and emotional needs of children significantly increase. For this purpose, taking a particular amount from the income for child support becomes quite important. Commonly, when a court decides upon child support they monitor whether the parents are capable to support their children or not.

There are many important goals that these child support practices serve. Firstly, it minimizes financial insecurity and poverty that their child might face in the future. Secondly, due to child support both non-custodial parents and their children get a chance to strengthen their relationship and spend more time with each other. On the other hand, if a parent is not able to pay or refuse to pay for the child support, then he or she might have to face legal consequences.

When a non-custodial parent is unable to pay for the child support, the custodial parent can accuse the non-custodial parent of violation of the child support agreement. As a result, the non-custodial parent might have to face legal problems that can lead him or her to jail as well. For this purpose, it is quite important for every parent to perform timely payments for child support so that they can avoid such legal consequences.

Significance of the Illinois Child Support Calculator

Among other questions, a number of parents ask one important question about how is child support calculated in Illinois courts? To calculate child support, the court usually investigates;

  • The income of both parents.
  • The requirements of the children
  • The needs and incomes of the custodial parent
  • The capability of each parent to pay for his or her child.
  • The standard of living of the child after separation of parents.

In order to ease the problem associated with child support, there are certain guidelines provided by the local government that could assist parents in evaluating how much amount they are required to pay for child support. The Illinois child support percentage gradually increases with the increase in the number of children. Here’s how;

  • For 1 child, parents have to pay 20 percent of their income.
  • For 2 children, parents have to pay 28 percent of their income.
  • For 3 children, parents have to pay 32 percent of their income.
  • For 4 children, parents have to pay 40 percent of their income.
  • For 5 children, parents have to pay 45 percent of their income.
  • For 6 or more children, parents have to pay 50 percent of their income.

So if next time someone asks, how much is child support in Illinois, show them these percentage guidelines. These percentage guidelines were designed solely on the basis of traditional arrangements of the child custody, in which non-custodians are required to visit their child on a regular basis (every weekend). However, in the case of shared or joint custody of children, or if the time of visitation increases from the traditional visitation time then these percentage guidelines will not remain the same. It is more likely that the court may incorporate further expenses in these guidelines in terms of health care, school tuition fee, and extracurricular activities. In other cases, if the income of a parent is quite high, then the amount of guideline will increase accordingly. On the other hand, if a parent is associated with low monthly income than he or she will have to pay lesser than the amount guideline.

Estimating the Net Income with Illinois Child Support Calculator

The Illinois child support calculator is a beneficial tool that can assist parents in calculating the expenses involved in the child support program.  The formula for calculation is quite simple. The parent will just have to add the amount of net income (including both earned and unearned) and subtract it from the adjustment or deductions provided in the child support guidelines. Here are some common forms of income that parents are required to show while disbursing child support;

  • Income received from the investment.
  • Income received from self-employment work.
  • Income received from commissions.
  • Income received from monthly, weekly or yearly wages.

On the other hand, here are some common deductions that are subtracted while calculating child support;

  • State and federal income taxes
  • Premiums for health insurance (for both dependents and old custodians).
  • Expenses required to generate income.
  • Medical-related expenses
  • Any amount which is already been paid for the welfare of the custodial parents or children.

Although calculating the right amount of child support can be quite difficult, still this calculator can provide an estimate to some extent about how much amount is needed to be paid by the parents after separation.

The responsibilities of child support also rest with such parents that receive no or less income. The court will examine the reason for the low income of non-custodial parents. If a parent is working voluntarily for a lesser amount of time and has the capability to work more, then such individuals will be liable to pay for child support. On the other hand, if a parent is highly qualified but still working for a low salary job, then these individuals too will be liable to pay for child support. Unless they present some strong pieces of evidence regarding their efforts for hunting good jobs or any other reason such as disability issues or getting affected by chronic health problems. In such scenarios, the court will then ask the parent to provide only potential or imputed income as child support. This potential income will be entirely based on the most current job in which a parent is involved in or will be based on such job opportunities for which the parent can easily qualify considering their experience and training. Lastly, if no evidence is found by the court then it will set the minimum wage as an imputed income for the child support.

Modifying or Terminating Child Support In Future

Situations might occur when a child may need extra care or support, due to any unforeseen circumstances. In such cases, the non-custodial parents can ask for Illinois child support modifications in order to enhance the financial assistance for their children, so that they can meet all the necessary requirements in their lives. On the other hand, if the non-custodial parents think that their child has now become capable to earn on its own, then in this case as well they can request modifications in the child support accordingly.

However, in case of any modification required, the parents will have to provide concrete evidence to support it. In accordance with the Illinois child support regulations, the obligation on parents to support their children terminates after 18 years of age. But, this obligation will be modified if the child is still going to high school for learning. In such scenarios, the non-custodial parents will be obliged to pay for their child support until the child gets graduated or turns 19. Moreover, if the child lacks self-support capability or has some kind of disability, then these obligations may further delay in the future. In certain cases, the Illinois courts also come forward to support parent for making payments after the child turns 19.

Illinois Child Support Payments

Generally, the payments for child support are taken from the paycheck of the non-custodial parents. The payment process begins when a child support notice is sent to the employer of the non-custodial parents. Once the notice is received, the employer will become liable to disburse the child support payments from the parent’s paycheck and send it to the Illinois child support disbursement unit.  On the other hand, parents are also liable to check the disbursed amount, in order to ensure that the right amount of payment is being sent for the child support through the employer.  If the employer fails to disburse the child support payments from the parent’s paycheck then the non-custodial parents can send the payment by themselves. However, if the employers fail to pay for the child support, they may have to pay a $100 fine per day.

In Illinois, the payment for child support is generally done through the Illinois child support disbursement unit. This unit is responsible for processing the payments for child support obtained from parents or employers, and then disbursing them to the new custodians via debit card, direct deposit, or check. One important advantage of the Illinois child support disbursement unit is it keeps a thorough record for every payment made through it. This can eventually help both the custodial and the non-custodial parent to avoid any arguments on child support in the future.

Illinois Child Support Laws 2020

In comparison with the modification of Illinois Child Support Laws in 2017, in 2020 there are no significant changes made. In 2020, the obligation on the non-custodial parent to stay with their child is increased up to 50 percent. Hence, the higher the time parent will spend with their child lesser will they have to pay for the child support. On the other hand, as far as the 146 overnight visit requirements per year are met by the non-custodial parents, the time required to be spent by each parent will not be considered in the Illinois child support calculator 2020.

 One of the major changes in child support law took place in 2017 when a new model for the sharing of income was adopted in the Illinois child support program. The whole idea behind this model was to hold the non-custodial parents more responsible for providing support to their children in the same way as if they were intact in the family. There are certain factors on the basis of which the contribution of the non-custodial parent towards child support can be calculated in accordance with this model. A parent’s basic support is evaluated based on their shared total income and the amount of time the kid spends with non-custodial parents every year.

To further illustrate this factor, consider a couple who spends roughly $30,000 every year for the expenses of their child, and they agree upon giving 50/50 time to their child. So, after reviewing the financial positions of both the parents, the court finds out that the mother is contributing 40 percent, while the father is contributing 60 percent in the total income. In that scenario, the father will be liable to pay $18,000 (60% of his income), while the mother will have to pay $12,000 (40% of her income) in the child support.

Hence, by providing appropriate child support, parents can help bring the lost colors in their children’s lives. As children already go through many stressors after their parents get separated. Therefore, child support is their basic right, and parents should ensure to provide it, in order to shape a better future for them.

 References

 https://www.oflaherty-law.com/learn-about-law/illinois-child-support-2020-recent-changes-to-illinois-support-law

https://www.wahpetondailynews.com/news/child-support-what-is-it-who-pays-why-it-s/article_80c73f6c-d48f-11e7-a477-d78d8d716b0e.html

https://www.wahpetondailynews.com/news/child-support-what-is-it-who-pays-why-it-s/article_80c73f6c-d48f-11e7-a477-d78d8d716b0e.html

https://www.divorcenet.com/resources/child-support/child-support-basics/child-support-illinois.html

https://www.mckinleyirvin.com/family-law-blog/2019/april/child-support-for-children-with-special-needs/

Unpaid Child Support: What You Can Do

2houses : web & mobile app for divorce with kids - unpaid child support

There are some coparenting situations where child support is a non-issue. If the parents have a true 50/50 custody time split and make roughly the same income, the courts may decide that there’s no need for a child support order. Similarily, some people choose to forego financial support as part of their divorce agreement. However, if you do count on child support as part of your monthly income, not receiving payments can create a real financial hardship.

Unless there’s a specific short-term issue that’s keeping your ex from making payments, you’ll likely need to get the professionals involve in collecting back support. Here’s what you need to know.

Get an Official Child Support Order

While this may seem obvious, it’s not unusual for coparents to have an informal child support arrangement. This is most common in situations where the divorce is in process, the parents were never married, or the divorce/dissolution was very amicable. While this situation works for some, it’s always best to have an official court order to fall back on, and if you’re dealing with unpaid child support, it’s a must before you can take any action for back payments.

Ensure the Child Support Order Is Accurate and Up to Date

Child support is handled on a state by state basis, and each state has its own guidelines for what factors go into the calculations and how child support is determined. In most cases, it will be dependent on the income (and possibly earning potential) or both parents and any other outstanding factors. These could be child care costs or something like above-average medical expenses for a child with a chronic condition. However, these factors may change as the child gets older or the parents get new jobs. If you or your coparent has experienced a significant change in financial circumstances, it’s important to have your child support order updated before seeking back payments — especially if the unpaid child support is due to a financial hardship.

Contact Your Local Child Support Enforcement Agency

The Child Support Enforcement Agency is responsible for ensuring that child support orders are executed. It should be your first contact if you stop receiving your payments. The case worker can let you know how long you have to go without a payment before enforcement action is taken (this is usually 1-3 months) and what the next steps are. Keep in mind, however, that the case worker will likely not be able to tell you why you’re not receiving payments or give you any personal information about your ex’s job or financial situation.

Keep Up Open and Positive Communication

It’s frustrating when you’re counting on money, and it doesn’t come in. But it’s important to keep the child support and the visitation and custody matters separate. If your ex stops paying support, that doesn’t mean you can withhold visitation or try other punitive measures to get them to pay. And really, this can just backfire even more and turn what was a peaceful coparenting arrangement into a war zone. Using the expense tracking and messaging tools on 2houses gives you an easy way to keep communication factual, professional and focused on the children.

Whether your ex just missed their first payment or you’re owed thousands in unpaid child support, it’s important to continue to abide by the current court order and go through the proper legal channels to seek back payments.

 

Co-Parenting: Managing School-Related Expenses

co-parenting - 2houses

School supplies in every store and cooler weather — depending on where you live — are sure signs of school starting, and it’s not long before the school buses are back on their routes and your child is back in school. While it’s a fun time of year full of new beginnings and new adventures, it can also be the most expensive for parents. Co-parenting about finances successfully takes grace, compassion, and respect, but it is possible to manage all of the school-related expenses with your ex peacefully.

Dividing School and Extracurricular Expenses

The very first part of managing school expenses is deciding what qualifies for that category. In some cases, your divorce decree and co-parenting agreement may do this for you. Sometimes these will list certain expenses — such as sports fees, school picture costs, and private school tuition — and the percentage that each parent is expected to pay. If this is the case, you’re in luck. Keeping things organized is as simple as informing the other parent about any shared expenses your incur and making your own payments promptly. Remember to keep receipts for any expenses you paid for so you can show proof of payment just in case any issues do occur later on.

However, for other parents, there’s no guidance in the court order and they’re left to their own agreements. In these cases, you may want to sit down with your co-parent and try to come to an agreement on who will pay what — which will be different for every situation. It may help to make a list of all anticipated expenses beforehand — bonus points if you can show what all had to be paid last school year — so that everyone is on the same page as far as expectations. Some parents might just split all expenses down the middle, while others may need to resort to a percentage system that takes into account disparity between incomes.
Whatever you decide, remember to put it in writing, so there’s no confusion later on. You might even want to consider having your agreement added to the court order, but keep in mind, that you may still need to revisit and amend things as your children get older and expenses and needs change.

Organizing Finances While Co-Parenting

Staying organized when you’re sharing expenses can be a challenge, but 2houses makes it easier. The in-app financial management system lets you keep track of your expenses and categorize each one so it’s always clear what money was spent for which expense. You can also send the other parent an invitation to reimburse you for their portion of the expense. Just use the mobile app to take a picture of the receipt and add it right then to the expense.

Use the wish list feature to let them know if there’s anything extra coming up your child needs, such as new shoes for cross-country or a class ring. At any time, you can export the expenses into a CSV or PDF file for easy accounting and documentation. Keeping everything in one place makes it easier for both parents to access the information at any point without having to call or message the other parent or try to get information through the child.
Whether you’re tracking large amounts like tuition payments or just need a way to know if you already paid your half, 2houses is designed to make it easier for co-parenting families to manage the financial side of the school year.

Get your wallet ready for the divorce

divorce - 2houses

If you believe divorce is in the foreseeable future, it’s a smart move to starting planning your finances and budget before divorce proceedings begin.  Transitioning to a life after divorce will be much easier and with less of an upheaval when you are financially prepared.  Meet with your planners, use online resources and create a divorce team so you can expertly navigate the details of a divorce.  This post will discuss some suggestions to help get you started and ensure a smoother journey on this difficult path.

Meet with a Financial Advisor and Estate Planner

Make a plan to meet with a financial advisor to review bank accounts, life insurance policies, retirement funds and other important financial papers. If these accounts are in your name, your advisor will ensure the right beneficiaries are listed and the funds invested in are appropriate for your situation. An Estate Planner can help you draw up a new Will, advise on obtaining new insurance quotes and advise on your tax situation. Deductibles and other taxation issues will arise, especially if children are involved.

Open your own financial accounts

If you don’t already have your own personal bank accounts or credit cards, open them now and start using them. It can be difficult to obtain credit after your divorce, especially if you are a stay-at-home mom or have put your career on hold. While still married, you can use your shared household income when applying for credit.

Review your credit report

Obtain your credit report and review it for anything that may have tarnished your credit history. If mistakes are present in the report, take steps to correct them now. Pay down any debts you have to improve your credit rating.

Become familiar with online resources

You can find online tools and mobile apps to manage expenses for both households after the divorce. These are great tools to capture expenses and income to keep the accounts balanced and are especially important when children are involved. If your divorce settlement will include monthly support payments, a feature in this online resource will send out friendly reminders that payment has not yet been received which can help to avoid conflicts in your post-divorce relationship with your spouse.

Conclusion

With a looming divorce you will experience many emotions from sadness to worry to peace of mind. Having familiarity with your current finances, especially if your spouse handled the money will bring you confidence and security about your future. Keep your team and resources close at hand so you too can look forward to a single, joyous and independent life.

Say Hi To Oscar: The New Kid That May Change Health Insurance

oscar the app for health insurance - 2houses

In five weeks from now, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act mandates the opening of health insurance exchanges around the country. At that time New Yorkers will be introduced to an innovative way of thinking about health care: Oscar. Three friends, and technology entrepreneurs, teamed up to do something that has been inconceivable to date—create a start-up health insurance company to take on conventional health insurers on the NY exchange. Oscar co-founders, Josh Kushner, Kevin Nazemi and Mario Schlosser, plan to change the health insurance industry through technological interfaces, telemedicine and real transparency. Their goal is to redesign insurance to be geared toward the user experience, to make patients seek out their insurer before their doctor.

Americans do not usually think of health insurance as an intimate part of the care process. When sick, individuals do not call their insurance company for care or support. The health insurance industry is considered confusing, at best. The ACA however, presents an opportunity for the reformation of health insurance as we know it, not because of its disappearance, but by making it an integral part of receiving quality care. According to one co-founder, “We want consumers to feel like they have a doctor in the family.” That family doctor he speaks of is Oscar.

Oscar will have one plan in each of the ACAs metal-tiered categories, and additional plan options for the Bronze and Silver tiers. Although Oscar will have some of the familiar pillars of the health care industry like co-pays and deductibles for in-person visits, it introduces new elements like free telemedicine, free generic drugs and online price comparisons. Oscar health insurance will pioneer “a consumer experience, not a processor of claims,” explained Nazemi, with the goal of simply guiding individuals through the complex health system in an integrative and safe way.

Read more… by Nicole Fisher and Scott Liebman