Child Support Mistakes To Avoid When Paying Directly

paying child support directlyBy Jennifer M. Paine

Divorce Lawyer, Cordell & Cordell

As outlined in my previous divorce article, it is possible to pay child support directly rather than go through state agencies in some cases, despite the warnings you often hear.

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.

Read Related Article:

How To Pay Child Support Directly

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.

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One comment on “Child Support Mistakes To Avoid When Paying Directly

    My ex and I agreed I would pay her directly for child support. We both had lawyers who wrote our agreement and it has been made into a joint parenting agreement attached to our divorce.
    I am a carpenter and and there are times periodically I’m laid off and recieve unemployment during those weeks. We agreed that I would pay half the amount when I’m on unemployment. The final draft was sent to me the night before we went to court for the final time and it that “half payment” stipulation was in the draft she sent me (that week my attorney withdrew from my case/which I agreed to) not sure if that matters, I’m just making that part clear.
    The next morning was our final hearing for dissolution of our marriage and every thing went smooth.
    A year later, I was laid off for 2 weeks so for that 2 weeks I paid half (I pay her in two payments each most) so the following 2 weeks she was paid the full amount.
    I got a email from her ranting and laughing stating the part about it being half when I’m laid off was it in the final papers we signed. Therefore it wasn’t in the court order and I owe her the full amount regaurdless of my employment status. She told me she would take me back to court over it, she even sent a letter from her attorney.
    I responded to her stating to go ahead and take me back bc it needs cleared up, as it was oversight.
    Well she didn’t take me to court and nothing else was said other than me asking her to please agree to have it amended to which she wouldn’t reply.
    Moving forward, another year and half passes and I get laid off (this was about 3 mos ago) I sent her an email stating I was laid off and she replied again telling me that my employment status has nothing to so with child support and what I owe, that it is to be the full amount. I was only laid of one month, so I paid her half for that month.
    It’s been a few months and nothing more has been said.
    My concern is that this could come back to bite me later, even though she admitted in documented email that it was an oversight and even though I have a copy of the draft sent to me the night before we went to court for the final time.
    What can or could happen to me and how should I go about fixing this and can rest assured it will be fixed upon filing to have it fixed or whatever else it is you suggest I do.
    Ps. She has been interfering with my parenting time in recent mos and I want to have our time modified, it will first be through mediation since she won’t agree but before we go, I worry about the child support issue affecting modification in a negative way.
    Note: we live in ILLINOIS and we have Joint legal custody with her being the residential parent.
    Any advice other than the obvious (speak to an attorney) would be appreciated. Speaking to an attorney will be my next step once I know what it is I should be seeking help with.

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