I'm in a panic about how my kids and I will live after the divorce. How do I find out how much child support we can count on?
In the absence of an agreement by you and your spouse, your particular state has child support guidelines that courts are directed to follow. It's important to note you and your spouse can reach agreements so the court doesn't have to. As the saying goes, the state has a plan if you don't. Occasionally the courts make orders outside the guidelines. The most immediate way to get answers and amounts would be to use an on-line child support calculator. Check your state's handling of child support.
Is there a possibility that we can agree to child support amounts outside our state's guidelines?
Yes, courts will agree to unusual agreements if it views the agreement(s) as being in the best interest of the children and addresses all needs and concerns. An example of this would be where parents agree to share equally their time with their children. Parents can agree on special expenses (tutors, private schools, travel, etc) that impact the exchange of money. Prove to the court that your children's best interest is served, and you're good to go.
Will it be possible to adjust child support amounts once the judge's order is in place?
Yes, most everyone is in agreement that as children age, their needs change. They tend to require more financial assistance (child support). Activities and dress often make up the bulk of these changes. The guidelines determined by your state will dictate how often child support can be adjusted. Most states have that provided for on their state web pages. Do a Google
search for your state's child support agency. Some couples agree to mediate any child support adjustments in the future.
Until what age will the child support payments be required to be made?
The age at which child support payments terminate depends on the state you live in and its guidelines. New York is age 21, Georgia is age 18 or high school graduation whichever occurs first, Pennsylvania is also age 18 or high school graduation, whichever happens first. Colorado on the other hand has age 19 as the age of emancipation. Massachusetts is 23 if still going to school. Speak with your attorney if you wish to have other details in your agreement (e.g. military, move away, etc.). See Emancipation
Does child support money need to be documented in any way, and must I spend it all "directly" on them?
To our knowledge no state requires that you document where you spend child support monies. These payments are intended to cover expenses, which include household expenses such as food, rent/mortgage, electricity and other general expenses. Some suggest you do keep some record of that income and expenses so that you know what received child support does and does not cover.
What about the kids health care? While we were married my spouse's health plan at work covered them and me?
Check with your attorney to determine if your state makes provision for this (not all do). You may need to 'negotiate' these details if it isn't mandated by your state child support statutes. Having your (being the ex-spouse) health benefits maintained is often less likely than for the kids, so you may wish to begin exploring alternatives. Keep in mind that if they are covered by insurance, you are negotiating what insurance doesn't pay.
Who will be responsible for paying for health care amounts and how is that determined?
It depends on whether your state's child support statutes cover that or not. In many cases states require the higher wage earner to pay insurance premiums and a larger proportion of expenses not covered by insurance. Your agreement should address
future dental care (orthodontia) and other potential medical needs (e.g. psychiatrists, psychotherapists) or any other area of health care.
He tells me he can't afford to pay both child support and day care expenses, and I know I can't. What now?
If you two can't agree on this right away, you can request a temporary order from the court directing your spouse to pay for day care. You will need to negotiate this issue though, for the future. If you can't agree and there is no temporary order, child care would likely be suspended and whatever damage comes from that will result.
The kids will spend summers every year with me. Must I continue to pay full child support even though they are here with me?
The court order that becomes your divorce decree requires that you pay a certain amount periodically. You cannot change that unless you negotiate it beforehand and have it specified in your agreement. Remember that expenses still occur at the children's primary home even though they are with you.
I want my kids to go to college, but my "soon-to-be-ex" isn't convinced it is the best option for them. What do I do?
This will depend on your ex being agreeable to paying college costs. Your very best option is to get an agreement to pay college costs in the settlement agreement during divorce, and have the agreement be incorporated into the final divorce decree. Consider setting up custodial education savings accounts like 529 Plans, UGMA, UTMA and the like. See a handy College for Saving
Even though I will be the custodial parent, my spouse tells me I will be required to pay him child support. Is that true?
Your state guidelines as set forth in divorce laws will determine that. It is usually the case that the custodial parent bears the brunt of the expenses for the children, and receives the child support from the other spouse. Remember, the custodian is contributing too. There are odd instances where the custodian pays the non- custodian. Illinois requires such treatment. Check with your attorney.
What happens if my spouse dies? Is there any provision by the state so that we will continue to get child support?
Technically, the answer is no. If he died intestate, your kids would be immediate heirs. Otherwise, you should be sure some provision is made in the divorce agreement. Life insurance is one way, and you'll need to agree who pays what and for
how long. Another consideration would be requiring child support be met by one's estate by will.
I pay child support to my first ex now. How will that affect my payments for this divorce?
In general, states treat the children from a previous marriage as primary considerations when one has children by two or more women. This does not relieve him of responsibility, however. He will pay a somewhat smaller percentage than one without a prior family, but he will be required to pay. An on-line child support calculator should answer the 'how much' question.
I've lost my job, and my ex has agreed to take lower child support payments until I get another job. Can this come back to haunt me?
Maybe. This works especially when you are paying your ex directly. Get an agreement in writing from her that she will accept less and that she won't come back later for the remainder. There can be a period of less cooperation in the future, and your ex might claim you owe the difference. If you are required to pay via the court or through your state enforcement unit, an agreement in writing may not satisfy them, and they can demand the original higher amount. You may have to get court approval in that case.
If one of us remarries, how does that affect child support?
Remarriage is frequently a concern during mediation or divorce proceedings. You can mediate an alternative plan in the event of remarriage, or you can agree to mediate another one in the future. Your state may require modification if a remarriage occurs and there are children from it. Have your lawyer explain the impact of a second family. Some former spouses are shocked when support goes down when their former partner has children in a subsequent family.
The husband tells me he is losing his position at work and will have to take a lower paying one, and needs to lower child support payments. What are my choices?
His situation at work doesn't change his child support obligation or amount paid. If he asks you to accept lower amounts, that's your choice to make. He may not ask, and simply file a motion for an adjustment, at which time you can agree or contest it. If he is found to have reduced his income intentionally to have child support lowered, he can be made to continue the higher amount.
My spouse gets paid under-the-table. How can I get a fair estimate of his income?
He will be required to produce records that state and prove his income. In most cases it will be you and your attorney's decision to accept his claim to income, or contest it. If you contest it, you will be forced to litigate it, causing additional expense that you may or may not recover. Weigh your options carefully with your attorney.
I want to do right by my kids, and I can afford to pay more child support than is required. Should I agree to that in writing?
Be careful about agreeing to it in writing. You can always do more, or pay more, without it in writing. Life changes, as do our lives. Your situation may change, preventing you from making the extra effort, and would require a trip back to court to amend your agreement.
My spouse's income can vary greatly from one year to the next. How do I protect the kids and get the child support they deserve?
In most states, you really have two choices here with respect to consistent child support payments. You can expect and demand the amount determined by your state's child support guidelines, or you can agree to take less. If you agree to take less, it might be as a percentage of income with a minimum built in. You don't have to negotiate however. Hold firm on the child support laws or be open to negotiation. It's your choice.
I want to pay more child support to benefit my children, and wonder if that can be considered "paying forward" in the event I am unable to pay in the future.
The only way that paying more than is required could be considered paying forward your obligation is if your ex agrees to that, and again, if it is in writing, you're covered. Most custodial parents don't accept such an offer though, as the extra child support rarely goes unspent.
Under what circumstances will alimony be granted?
Alimony, also called maintenance in some states, is money paid by one spouse to the other after a divorce for the purpose of financial support. Husbands as well as wives are sometimes appropriate candidates for alimony. The incidences of alimony appear to be decreasing with time. Many reasons could account for this. Alimony is intended to support the dependent person until they
can can become independent. Some states, like Texas, require 10 years of marriage before alimony is considered. Most states do not have that strict rule, however. Click on your state from the list to the left and view alimony details.
My spouse has been caught red-handed, cheating. I want him to pay for his transgressions financially in asset division and alimony. What must I do?
Marital misconduct, as a general rule, does not impact alimony or property division. Some states and some judges give it some weight, but most do not. Ask your lawyer what impact his infidelity can have on proceedings.
How do we determine how much alimony is the right amount of alimony?
First one needs to determine ones ability to pay alimony, and how much. Without respect to marital misconduct, you should consider the assets and income of you both, your earning capacities, how long your marriage lasted, the age of your children and if special considerations need to be addressed, how taxes will impact you both (remember, alimony is taxable to the recipient). Any pre-nups or marital agreements you may have. Oddly, most courts have no alimony statutes to rely on, and must
use case law as guidance.
I'm being awarded lifetime alimony. What kind of conditions can they put on me so I can continue that?
It's going to depend on your state and its divorce laws. Most states allow for the termination of alimony at a re-marriage. Some permit termination of alimony if the recipient cohabits with someone. Get this covered by your lawyer.
What happens to alimony payments if my spouse's income changes drastically?
We presume you mean drastically lower. Remember that the alimony obligation is part of a court order, and unless you two have made provision (in writing) for this event, you'll need to reach an agreement now. You can sit on your hands and he'll have to pay the same alimony amount unless he petitions the court for lower payments.
Is there any certainty about alimony payments? Can I get it from his estate if he dies?
The answer to your first question is no, there is no certainty. In most cases it ends when the ex dies, unless you have a constructive agreement in writing, or he has made provisions in his will. Considerations can be life insurance policies or insurance annuities that get created at death to fund payments to you. See a financial planner for more detail.
How does the IRS treat alimony?
The IRS considers alimony a tax deduction to the person who pays alimony, and taxable income to the recipient of alimony.
My spouse and I were married just over 8 years. She says she won't agree to a divorce until we hit 10 years, which she says, qualifies her for alimony. I dispute this. Who is right?
Too many variables. Few states (Texas is a notable exception) require by statute that a marriage be a minimum of 10 years for alimony to be considered. You hear the 10 year number because courts tend to use being married ten years as a standard even if it isn't stated in any law. Some states consider the marriage over at the filing for divorce. Most alimony is awarded based on case law (previous cases) so a local attorney would be knowledgeable about how local judges rule.