By Jennifer M. Paine
Divorce Lawyer, Cordell & Cordell
If you are contemplating direct child support payments, either to a third party or to the other parent, avoid these common mistakes:
Payment Without Permission: If you pay the other party or a third party directly and do not have permission from the judge, then in most states that payment is conclusively a gift, and you will have to pay the parent as specified in your support order anyhow. This means, you pay twice.
Paying With Cash: It may be a pain to write a check or set up a direct deposit from your account to your ex’s, but it is a must. Do not pay your ex in cash; you are asking for a disagreement in the future over whether you paid, how much you paid, and what your payment was for.
A few dollars here and there may seem insignificant – would you really write a check for $20 for your child’s cough medicine? – but the “here and there” adds up.
If you must use cash, you must obtain a receipt from your ex that specifies the date, the amount and what the payment was for.
Trusting You Ex: If you agree to pay the mortgage directly, do not give your ex the money with the understanding that she will make the mortgage payment as she pays the other household bills.
You made an agreement for a direct pay method for a reason, and you need to follow it. Who’s to say your ex will not keep the money, or make the payment late, or deny it altogether?
Forgetting The “What If’s”: It may be a good idea to agree to directly pay now the “necessaries” like the van lease, the mortgage, etc. You are in a stable job, have the money and want to keep this control.
But what happens if you lose your job? What happens if you want to sell the home? What if your ex becomes employed and you would otherwise qualify for a downward support modification?
Be sure your support payment method contemplates these “what if’s” by including language that allows for child support modifications, that specifies when and how direct payments terminate, that clarifies whether the parents intend for support to continue after the child reaches the age of majority, and so forth.
The “what if’s” may never happen, but, if your agreement is to last, you must guard against them.
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These are easy mistakes to make, but they are also easy to avoid with proper planning.
So, if you are contemplating direct child support payments, have a frank and thorough discussion with your mens divorce attorney about your options and the law that applies to them.
Because making direct payments may not be such a bad idea after all.
Jennifer M. Paine is an Associate Attorney in the Detroit, Michigan office of Cordell & Cordell. She is licensed to practice in Michigan, and has been admitted pro hac vice in Illinois, Ohio, and the United States Court of Federal Claims.
Ms. Paine received her BA in English and Mathematics from Albion College and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She received her Juris Doctorate from MSU College of Law and graduated Summa Cum Laude.